Of all the memorable scenes in Boots Riley’s enchantingly bizarre Sorry to Bother You, the most politically salient is when union organizer Squeeze (Steven Yeun) tells the fuming, disillusioned Cash (Lakeith Stanfield) why simple awareness isn’t enough. To truly puncture the veneer of spectacular (mis-)information, you need to cut off its ability to reproduce itself. “If you get shown a problem, but have no idea how to control it,” he says, “then you just decide to get used to the problem.”
Not only have we turned the corner, / I know what lies on its other side. / So divine is my inspiration, I can tell you with certainty: / democracy is for chumps. / Jack, you’ve stirred your last chicory. / Armies of clogged noses stand behind me, / and they are formidable… so long / as they stay on their god-dang knees.
When we tear down statues, it is an attempt to alter the trajectory of history. Not history as just “what has happened,” which we can never change as much as reinterpret. No, this is history as a great unfolding, as something that is taking place and will take place on one route or another depending on what is done in this moment. You can hear it in the reactions of the right. In their barely contained apoplexy, their cries of “you can’t erase history,” they are, however unwittingly, announcing that there is consequence to how that history is experienced in the here and now.
Already the air is febrile, anxious, begging to move. It is easy to find the demonstration, with so many walking in the direction of the park. Everyone wears masks. Most wear black, many carry signs: “George Floyd did not deserve to die,” “ACAB,” “Fuck12,” “Defund police,” and, of course, “Black Lives Matter.” A police helicopter hums overhead, the first of at least five we will see over the next few hours.