I haven’t been able to get the information released yesterday about the murder of Elijah MacClain out of my head. If you aren’t aware, Elijah was a 23-year-old Black autistic man who lived in Aurora, Colorado. On August 30th, 2019, Elijah was confronted by three cops responding to a call about an unarmed person wearing a ski mask that looked ‘sketchy.’ Elijah wasn’t wearing a ski mask, so it was not him. That didn’t stop these cops, though. The three claim their body cameras were knocked off during the struggle with this 5’6″, 140 lbs neurodivergent man. You can read his last words as reproduced from the body cam audio:
“I can’t breathe. I have my ID right here. My name is Elijah McClain. That’s my house. I was just going home. I’m an introvert. I’m just different. That’s all. I’m so sorry. I have no gun. I don’t do that stuff. I don’t do any fighting. Why are you attacking me? I don’t even kill flies! I don’t eat meat! But I don’t judge people; I don’t judge people who do eat meat. Forgive me. All I was trying to do was become better. I will do it. I will do anything. Sacrifice my identity, I’ll do it. You all are phenomenal. You are beautiful and I love you. Try to forgive me. I’m a mood Gemini. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Ow, that really hurt! You are all very strong. Teamwork makes the dream work. Oh, I’m sorry, I wasn’t trying to do that. I just can’t breathe correctly.”
EMTs arrived on the scene and administered ketamine into Elijah’s system. They did this without using a sedative. If you don’t know much about ketamine, it’s a dangerously powerful hallucinogenic substance that is meant to be used WITH a sedative. Both were unnecessary ultimately because the cops should have left Elijah alone in the first place. But that didn’t happen. The coroner’s report was released yesterday, showing that he died from a ketamine overdose after receiving brutal bodily injuries. Some of the cops involved thought it would be funny weeks later to go to the scene of their murder and take photos mocking Elijah. The authorities assure us that sensitivity training and departmental investigations will get to the bottom of this.
The rot is in the roots. As a neurodivergent person, reading Elijah’s last words make me cry every time because I know what he was feeling in his mind & heart as they were killing him. He was trying to people-please his killers as they were killing him. As an autistic person, you live your life thinking if you can just make yourself small enough, if you can just crush yourself down into the smallest un-noticeable grain of nothing, then the world will just leave you alone, and you can do the things that make you happy. If you can just be compliant, submissive, tiny, and insignificant enough, then they will let you go.
The reason Elijah was targeted was that he was a Black man. The reason they murdered him so easily was that he was neurodivergent. I keep thinking about the dozens of beautiful Black children I had the honor of teaching in my classroom over the years. I think of the three known autistic children I was able to be a teacher for in my career. I wish I could have held Elijah and let him know he was loved before he passed instead of how he died, which was in abject horror and humiliation. But I also think of the LGBTQ kids and adults out there, the people of color, those raised in just endless cycles of generational poverty.
Your world is in its death throes folks. What is happening in America is not “business as usual”; the horror is not akin to a natural disaster. These are created out of systems humans have built, twisted evil humans. Voting isn’t getting us out of this, as both parties have stated they want to put hundreds of thousands more of these armed state-sponsored cop thugs on the streets in the coming years. How many frightened man-children wearing surplus body armor will it take before you feel safe, huh? How many Elijah MacClains have to happen until you can breathe a sigh of relief?
I’m one person; I’m a mouse screaming into the chaotic void of whatever it is that humanity has come to in the year 2022. But I say full-throated that I will not let these monsters we’ve chosen to “lead” us strip beauty out of this world. They don’t create anything beautiful in this world, and they damn well have no say if it stays or goes. I acknowledge the horror of the circumstances around Elijah’s death, but I choose to remember the things I’ve learned about him since this story first broke three years ago. He was a beautiful autistic man who worked as a massage therapist for four years before his passing. He shared an apartment with his cousin. He loved to play the violin and did so for abandoned animals at a nearby shelter. His mother moved from Denver to Aurora to protect her six children from the growing gang violence she saw in her community. I wish I could have met Elijah and not learned about him under such horrible circumstances.
You have a choice. You can be “good little Germans” and keep your head down, ignoring the brutality in your community. Most people will choose that. They have the privilege to do so; they are frightened about losing what means they have to provide for their families; maybe they even believe the system is correct and will prove itself…one day. But I am so uninterested in being passive anymore. I don’t know what I can do, but complying just isn’t it. America has so much distraction and sedation to make it all disappear if you want, to make it easier to ignore & block out. But I’m not interested in blocking it out.
In the coming years, America will become an even more brutal, bloody abattoir than it already is. You cannot create a frenzied killing machine like the police and not give them something to kill. Today it’s Black people, neurodivergent people, etc. Tomorrow it will be you and your family. It’s just a matter of time until they find something Other about you to give them an excuse. Do you think the cop thugs are going to protect you? People have already forgotten Uvalde; that showed us how dedicated they are to keeping you and your family safe. Actual safety, true security lies in solidarity and empathy. You’ll never be safe in a society that relies on crushing the most vulnerable to “stay safe.” This world needs to die, not to end life or leave things in ashes, we burn the field so we can grow something new, better, and beautiful to nourish us all.