Now let’s talk about Wakanda’s cultural diversity. Having great diversity within Wakanda would be as easy as having a great deal of verried terrain within its borders–but not so fast! The cultures we saw hinted at in the trailer weren’t just diverse, they were reminiscent of damn near every Bantu culture I’ve ever heard tell of. And I’m no expert on Africa–but that probably makes it less likely that every Bantu culture I can identify in a lineup comes from the Great Lakes region, where at least there’d be some sort of natural explanation for these influences bleeding into/out of Wakanda, besides cultural appropriation.
There is only one logical explanation: these are the descendants of refugees.
Find it weird that a country as notoriously isolationist as Wakanda would accept refugees? Well in my last theory about the secret of Wakanda’s success I hypothesized that Wakanda’s isolationism was less THEY’LL TAKE OUR JOOORRRBS! and more the end result of thousands of years of a history in which the rest of the world has literally had nothing to offer them. Conversely, I also theorized that Wakanda can support a population density of ridiculous, so there’s always going to be plenty of “room” in Wakanda.
Cue the Scramble for Africa, AKA Europe competing over who can rape Africa the hardest. Leopold II of Belgium’s brutal regime in Congo alone killed somewhere between ten- and fifteen million people–or in other words, he was somewhere between 91% and 136% as evil as Hitler. Now to be “fair”, he was the worst of the worst as far as I can tell, but still, any time when you can legitimately compare people to Hitler, you’re in a bad place.
Now imagine Wakandans watching all this on Wakandan!CNN. Wakandan leadership very much does not want to get involved–long history has taught them that there is little to no reward in either sticking their necks out for outsiders or even in conquering them (see previous link)–but the people in the street are demanding that they Do Something. So, they open their borders to refugees, announcing it to the world.
Now I imagine they wouldn’t have been able to keep a cap on just how powerful they are, given that up until Europeans show up keeping it hushed up was less an official policy and more just something they did out of habit (see previous link, again), so there would be legends about just how powerful they are. Or maybe they’ve just demonstrated their might by repeatedly repelling European incursions with contemptuous ease. Probably both, combined with the desperate hope of salvation, result in a massive influx of refugees, who then integrate into the native cultures of Wakanda, resulting in the rich Wakandan tapestry we see today.
The implications of this, if true, are huge. The Dora Milaje aren’t just reminiscent of the Dahome warrior women, for example–they are their descendants and heirs, and presumably their ancestors did something that impressed the hell out of a previous king of Wakanda to gain their current Praetorian Guard status. All those echos of other cultures we see aren’t just coincidental or the result of cultural appropriation–they’re legitimate continuations of those cultures, evolved and recombined to deal with a new environment. Wakanda isn’t just an African culture–it’s a true pan-African culture.
So why no non-Bantu? Are the Wakandans just racist? (That would be the proper word, BTW–racism may be prejudice and power, but Wakanda has all the power in their dealings with anyone else.) I doubt it. They have little reason to value dark-skinned barbarians over light-skinned ones, and besides, there’s an explanation that’s more consistent with what I’ve been theorizing so far. Wakanda’s not doing anything to get the refugees to their borders, just accepting those who show up. Obviously it’s going to be easier for people from other places in Africa to reach them than people from beyond.
And in the modern day (I’m assuming they never ended such a clearly successful policy), they’ve probably got a reputation for being extremely weird. Highly suspicious how there’s no tourism allowed, no outside scientists or reporters allowed in, no news gets out, and no one who is allowed in is ever heard from again. Really, might as well leave out a door mat that says WELCOME TO WAKANDA! WE’RE NOT CANNIBALS–PROMISE! at that point. Presumably people do risk it, anyway, but non-Africans would be a very small minority of the population as a result.
Furthermore, while I’d never say that their attitude towards the rest of the world was good (I’ve only been saying it’s understandable and probably unavoidable, given their circumstances and probable history), the fact that it hasn’t really changed implies that they’re doing the right kind of multiculturalism–the kind where you’re open to new ideas, allow them to spread and flourish and enrich your culture, but hold onto your core values and the institutions that are dear to you.