Bolide: A Brief Study of Black Privilege

“There are cities on fire as I write this because it appears that, once again America would rather gnaw its own foot off before it allows itself to walk peacefully toward an equitable future.”

I wrote those words awhile ago, but they were true twenty years ago, and twenty years before that. In all likelihood, they will also be true twenty years from now.

Hear me out.

I’m not a fatalist, and I don’t plan on becoming one. But I do think that the freedom we seek is one that comes like a bolt of lighning that can strike a stone and split it in two.

Instead, what we’ve won for ourselves thus far is freedom that moves like water. It’s precious even as it is muddied. and it’s powerful enough to corrode stone as long as it coninues to flow.

So it will.

I also like to think of our true freedom (the version that includes the level of equity we’ve been rallying toward) as a bolide. It looks bright as a swollen moon, burning it’s way across the sky. It’s beautiful and terrifying, because freedom is those things too: emancipation for an oppressed people is beautiful.

But to the oppressor? Terrifying:

A bolide /ˈboʊlaɪd/ (Italian via Latin from the Greek βολίς bolís, “missile”) is an extremely bright meteor, especially one that explodes in the atmosphere. In astronomy, it refers to a fireball about as bright as the full moon, and it is generally considered a synonym for a fireball.

Thinking of the cultural shift occuring before my eyes as a bolide is soothing to me, and the ability to consider its definition in an optimistic way–especially in the political turmoult of this moment–is actually the bastion of Black privilege. Meaning, no matter how powerful the one who observes a bolide percieves themselves to be, that power is limited.

They can only track it. Create a narrative around it to make people fear it. Try as they might to destroy, while knowing that the latter is an impossibility. Still, being able to do any of the latter is a privilge.

I accept that.

But…Black people possess a different kind of privilege. I can only describe it as an innate knowledge that our movement toward freedom is not a benign, far-off bolide burning across the sky as it is studied and characterized until it’s archived. Made myth.

No.

It’s a bolide that will explode and light up the atmosphere, because it’s fuel source is Black joy and resilience, in equal parts. Those two things are like patience and fire, perpetually tempering each other and thus, our resolve. Those two things can move mountains. Those two things are the gifts we hold dear while the shift occurs, and balance is restored.

Happy Juneteenth.