How An Elephant That Poops Relates to Describing Racism To A White Person of Privilege — A Children’s Tale
Someone recently shared an analogy with me that “explaining to a white person with privilege the level of racism that black people have to deal with in America is like having an elephant in your house pooping on your couch, and this privileged person doesn’t even notice.
I decided to take this analogy a step further and outline what the dialog between these two individuals would look like.
In this scenario, not only is an elephant taking a poop in my house, but that white person of privilege brought the elephant (I.e. institutionalized racism) into my house before it began pooping.
Then this dialog ensues:
Me: Excuse me, but the elephant you just brought into my house is pooping on my couch.
Privileged Person: Excuse me? What elephant?
Me: The elephant that you brought. It’s beginning to poop on my carpet…in my house.
Privileged Person: I don’t know understand. What you are talking about?
Me: Look! This elephant. Now it just took a dump on my brand new TV.
Privileged Person: First off, I don’t appreciate the tone, so if we could change that, that would be great. Second, I don’t know any elephants that poop, so I don’t think that is possible.
Me: That might be your experience, but right now that elephant that YOU brought TO MY HOUSE is currently pooping on MY credenza.
Privileged Person: Listen, you sound very accusatory and you seem to be talking a lot about “your” house. What about other houses?
Me: What about other houses? The elephant is NOT pooping in other peoples’ houses. That elephant is pooping IN MY house.
Privileged Person: I don’t know why you are so angry at elephants. Do you not think these elephants have feelings? That these elephants don’t have families of their own?
Me: I’m not talking about whether they have or do not have feelings. I just want this blue elephant to stop pooping in my house.
Privileged Person: Listen. I think you are being very rude and generalizing that blue elephants, in particular, are bad. There are plenty of good blue elephants.
Me: This is not a debate about good or bad blue elephants. I just need this blue elephant to stop pooping in my house.
Privileged Person: Let me ask you this. Do you disagree that all Blue Elephant Lives Matter?
Me: What are you talking about?
Privileged Person: I’m just saying Blue Elephant Lives Matter.
Me: Huh? That’s not even relevant to our discussion.
Now look what just happened. Since we’ve been talking, you let in more elephants into my house and now they are pooping everywhere. There is a zoo of elephants defecating on my carpet and destroying my house.
Privileged Person: Well, I don’t know what you are talking about. Can you describe what these elephants look like?
Me: They are everywhere now. YOU DON’T SEE THIS?!
Privileged Person: Well, maybe if you lowered your voice and calmly outlined what exactly they are doing to offend you, perhaps then I could be of service?
Me: I don’t have time to describe what an elephant looks like and what it is doing. I am now shoveling their poop out of my window while you still just want to talk about the idea of elephants potentially pooping.
Privileged Person: Listen. I have a proposal. How about me and a group of my friends put together a book club to talk about identifying elephants? Maybe after we have learned some things we can create some webinars to share what we have learned about identifying these “so-called elephants that poop.” What do you think of that?
Me: No! That would not help. I need you to remove these elephants now.
Privileged Person: Well, you can’t rush us to learn so quickly about these elephants when this is all new to us?
Me: You brought these elephants to my house! You have known about them the entire time. You are just pretending like they aren’t in here. In fact, you are in such denial, you just put your glass on some hardened elephant poop. That is how long these elephants have been here. Their poop is now becoming furniture.
Privileged Person: Listen. You seem quite agitated and a little bit angry, which doesn’t make this a safe environment for us to continue to stay here.
Me: You feel unsafe?! What about me and all this poop accumulating in my house?
Privileged Person: Well, I think it is time for us to go.
Me: Oh, you got to go?! Can you take your elephants with you?
Privileged Person: We are going to do that book club. Watch a few Netflix episodes on Elephants and the possibility of them pooping and then when you have calmed down, and in a better place, we will come back and consider helping you. How’s that?
Me: What? YOU ARE GOING TO LEAVE YOUR ELEPHANTS HERE WITH ME?! What kind of soluti…
Privileged Person: OKAY! OKAY! Someone is a bit triggered right now and needs to use their inside voice. We will give you your space. Let us know when you are less perturbed by this “issue.” In the meantime, here’s just a few tips for you regarding your manners:
Don’t group all elephants together as that is really irresponsible and frankly, downright mean.
Also, don’t take offense to this, but you seem to have a bit of a stench in your house. It almost smells like something pooped in here. You should really get that taken a look at. Good Bye!
Me: Huh? (Disbelief Look)