The Elephant in the Room

They kill us in the streets, then step over our cooling, lifeless bodies for a frozen latte. They teach lies as history so we can pass an arbitrary test, ill-equipped to measure anything save our ability to follow direction without question. Our neighborhoods are neglected, bought for cheap, then gentrified into hollow, soulless parodies of community and kinship. Jobs are scarce. Healthcare is out of reach.

And Breonna Taylor’s killers, Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove, sleep in their homes without fear an errant bullet will enter their bodies.

We anguish. We mourn. And we have so much work left to do.

(She asked me “how do you eat an elephant?” I couldn’t answer.)

We see the dead in the street and on our screens. The lies in the school. The decimation and gentrification of our neighborhoods. The defunding of our social contract. We are angry and aware and unsatisfied with any change that does not feel substantive and systemic.

So why should any merely symbolic change satisfy us? Why should we choose between pandering and progress?

(An African elephant weighs about 13,000 lbs. They are the largest beings on land.)

The simple asks — to change a school name and stop the veneration of murderous traitors — were long rebuffed. Always rebuffed the same way: first with patronization, followed by deafening silence. Always with silence. But today the screams of Revolution in the streets fill the space left by patronizing silence. Through the decisive action of a few, the many now yield to our call.

We don’t ask to “Take ‘Em Down” anymore; we now, simply, just take them down.

The name of a racist segregationist will no longer adorn the nation’s most prestigious Public Policy Program. Monuments to killers and kidnappers, torturers and treasonists are falling en masse. Streets and symbols and schools are being renamed and refashioned in ways unthinkable mere weeks ago.

Our reaction to this change is not celebratory: it is cynical. We dismiss these changes as distractions. Worthless. Pointless. And I understand. We see these as a sudden solutions to placate the fight for systemic, substantive change. The PTSD of seeing our promise murdered on balconies and in ballrooms qualifies every victory as a potential set up for another demoralizing failure.

Yet these changes *are* substantive, systemic and not at all sudden. Thousands of comrades from hundreds of backgrounds and hues organized for decades for changes that only feel like they happened overnight. People sacrificed money, time, educations, jobs, relationships and lives to build the infrastructure to eradicate these symbols of supremacy.

Overnight success is always years in the making.

(A knife is but a tool. It has no purpose but that which it’s wielder gives it. It can be used to carve and create, or to incapacitate and kill. The choice, as always, is yours.)

The fight *begins* with symbolism: for if symbols didn’t matter, schools would be nameless and statues would never stand. Symbols are a psychological tool to normalize the deviance and dominance of white supremacy. They enshrine our history in a lie, which is all the more violent to a people whose history has been stolen and beaten and tossed in an ocean 400 years prior, still decomposing at the bottom of the water’s floor, seeding the seas with the sands of revolution.

How dare you spit and snicker at the blood your ancestors spilled.

We drink the sea’s water, sustained by sacrifices that sanctify our fight. The dissolution of the names and voices of those directly responsible for stealing our ancestors names and voices provides poetic justice.

Karma, then, is not just a bitch. It is divine law.

Everything matters. Everything. Even the steps that should have been easy and simple. Even the steps that are decades overdue yet took one night to correct.

Everything matters. Every step is a step forward. Every victory won deserves acknowledgement. Every battle won pushes us closer to winning the war.

Everything matters. Even the small. Even the symbolic. A win is not a defeat. A win is a win. I simply ask we treat small victories as small victories. Nothing more. Nothing less.

(One piece at a time. You eat an elephant one piece at a time.)

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store