THE MUTANT POWERS OF ELIJAH McCLAIN
BY; Tendai Nyachoto AKA The 10th Planet
The name Mutant or Minority is an overt homage to Stan Lee’s X-Men being a metaphor for the 60’s Civil Rights movement, in which mutants are a persecuted minority just as how African Americans still are to this very day. Unfortunately, despite what the metaphor and the police would have you believe, Black people and other minorities do not possess superhuman strength that requires us to be excessively tased, nor armored skin that can only be pierced with a hail of bullets, or the ability to instantly heal skulls fractured by “non-lethal” projectiles. No, despite our physical and spiritual strength and resiliency, we are just human. Human for better or for worse. And the best and the worse of humanity tragically met on the night of August 30, 2019 in Aurora, CO, when a racial profiling encounter between Elijah McClain and the police resulted in yet another life lost at the hands of law enforcement.
The then 23 years old Elijah McClain could be best described as a gentle misfit, he was a non-meat eater, pacifist, and a self-taught musician who volunteered to play violin for sheltered animals. He was someone who in the adolescent social hierarchy would be considered a social outcast, as in his own words “I’m different. I’m an introvert.” His gentle free spiritedness would have made him a likely target for grade school bullies, which may have been the reason he was home schooled. And ironically, he reportedly moved to suburban Aurora in order to get away from the violence in his Denver neighborhood, for while he may have avoided the bullies of schoolyards and urban street corners, he eventually fell prey to ones with badges.
Acting on a call about a suspicious Black man walking down the street wearing a ski mask, the police attempted to stop and question Elijah McClain. However, he ignored their commands and continued on his way to his apartment only a couple blocks away. When an approaching officer grabbed him by the arm, he tried to pull away proclaiming, “I’m an introvert, please respect the boundaries that I am speaking. Leave me alone.” Predictably, such a simple act of defiance escalated in him being violently restrained, and sadly, his death.
Police officers Nathan Woodyard, Jason Rosenblatt, and Randy Roedema threw their burly bodies on top pf Elijah’s 5’6’’ 140 lbs frame. Under the pretense of “subduing” him, they assaulted him with sadistic glee, going so far as to threaten him with a dog mauling if he did not submit to their dominance. And during this ordeal, Elijah continued to futilely resist proclaiming he intended to “take back his power” and “I’m just different! That’s all! That’s all I’m doing!”, social justice catchphrases that only further antagonized the authoritarian foot soldiers.
Regardless of his non-compliance, he did not require such a grossly disproportionate use of force. At one point he was placed in a carotid chokehold that renders a person unconscious by cutting off blood circulation to the brain. Still, throughout this traumatic assault, Elijah, not only pleaded for mercy, but tried to empathize with his transgressors. He pleaded “I’m sorry. I have no gun…I don’t do stuff like that…I don’t do any fighting…I don’t do drugs. I don’t even kill flies...I don’t eat meat…I don’t judge people or anything…you are all phenomenal…you are beautiful, and I love you…you can try and forgive me.” He even apologized for vomiting as a result of being violently choked.
Still without compassion, sensitivity to his naivety, or respect for his basic humanity, he was bound and sedated with Ketamine like an animal being tagged in the wild. The combination of violent trauma and a powerful sedative resulted in him suffering two heart attacks on the way to the hospital; days later he transitioned, leaving the world with even more heartbreak.
Sadly, as jarring as this encounter is, the torture of Black bodies is a common ritual from the very inception of America, continuously maintained through slavery, rapes, sharecropping, lynching, White mobs, military draft, church bombings, assassinations, mass incarceration and extrajudicial killings. However, America is not exceptional in its historical cruelty to its indigenous and minority groups, such atrocities still occur around the globe such as genocide, warfare, human trafficking, summary executions, environmental degradation, etc., it is a fault with human nature itself. As every comic geek knows, the human capacity and tendency towards cruelty and conflict is a central theme of X-Men and the basis for archvillain Magneto’s reactionary mutant militancy. And though the moral arc of the universe gradually bends towards justice, a more rapid change in our moral evolution is needed.
In fact, philosophy professors, Ingmar Persson and Julian Savulescu, argue in “Unfit For The Future: The Need for Moral Enhancement” that humans must be biological enhanced as our moral advancement has not kept pace with our cognitive gains threatening the survival of the species due to the proliferation of dangerous technologies. They point to the issue that 1% of the human population is classified as psychopathic, with a greater amount being anti-social personalities. With technology making it possible to build a biological weapons lab in one’s bedroom for only $100,000 and how nuclear weapons continue to proliferate, it is only a matter time before a dangerous lone wolf, or a terrorist organization causes an unfathomable mass casualty event.
They suggest the artificial biological enhancement of homo sapiens in order to create a more empathetic, moral, wise, and just world, a world where police brutality and school shootings are incomprehensible horrors that rarely occurs, if at all. They propose a number of solutions that some may consider controversial and mad sciency, such as gene editing, pharmaceuticals, transcranial magnetic stimulation, moral education and mass surveillance, but given the threat of annihilating ourselves, such suggestions should be taken seriously.
But we can apply more immediate and practical solutions to our bio-enhancement such as changing our tax policy to reduce economic inequality and thus reducing social tension and xenophobia. Guarantee access to housing, health care, and free higher education. Increase mental health access and reorient the economy around renewal energy technologies and sustainable infrastructure. And last but not least, invest in the humanities, so that the next Stan Lee can have the resources to create an iconic allegory about humanity’s need to change for the better.
Elijah expressed the willingness to change “All I was trying to do was become better. But I will do it. I will do it.” But It wasn’t him who needed to change. He was a mutant who wore a mask, and his powers were humility, empathy, and love.