Roar writer Laura Saracino on TEDxKing’s College London’s latest conference, “The Elephant in the Room.”
The “elephant in the room” is an issue, ignored yet central, of which everyone is well aware of, but no one addresses openly. A harsh imperfection or discomfort, difficult consequences, and a crucial impact: sometimes easier to just ignore. Thus, the impotent presence of the untold influences our behaviour in unknown ways, difficult to forget or undress.
In TEDxKing’s College London’s December 2020 edition, the idea worth spreading was speaking of the unspoken, fiercely exposing what traditionally has always been overlooked on purpose. In the YouTube streamed event, four powerful women had the strength to leave their personal elephants at the mercy of unknown viewers, setting them free in the endless Internet room.
Esther Kentish, Alex Blank, Jamilla Chakar, Sandra Igwe. Four unique stories and realities we all know or have met at least once. And carefully listening to the speeches, maybe we discovered our personal unspoken, or face the unknown struggles of someone close yet light-years distant.
Esther put forward her own face to confess how it feels being the only Black woman in a seminar room where the N-word sticks out, flashing, from the lecturer’s first slide. She felt personally addressed, threatened. And nothing happened, as if the situation did not exist. No trigger warning, no apologies, nothing. She left the room. She felt alone and angry; powerless.
Alex took the courage with both hands and opened her heart to the listeners, calmly and openly addressing all her insecurities, struggles and difficulties in having to deal with other people. The anxiety and distress coming from the sole thought of doing something considered deeply rooted in our nature, something that humans pride themselves to have as a distinguished trait, an innate ability: sociability, relationships, communication. Being silent and introverted, unable to create bonds effortlessly in a dimension where loudness is power and exteriority is what makes the difference.
Jamilla shared with the virtual audience her struggle in finding purposeful actions for helping others. She denounced the disrupting impact that those “feeling good holidays” have, becoming forms of tourism exploiting those in need. She decided to take a step further against volunturism by fiercely stating that poverty is not and must not become a tourist attraction. Social change is possible, but not through vacation packages promising life-changing experiences. It is something that requires a lot more effort, time and perseverance rather than a week or two abroad; something infinitely more rewarding, impacting, and lasting. And that is something everyone can and should do, starting now.
Sandra gave the listeners an insight to her private and vulnerable side, as a BAME mother suffering from postpartum depression. She was a victim of the “strong Black mother myth” and did not find the support or the credits for what she was going through: her postpartum journey. By finding the courage to speak up, network and find other mothers like her, she built an outstanding community that became able to provide support, counsel and medical treatment for many strong Black women, not afraid to share their difficulties and powerful when receiving support from the community.
These women had the strength to address the elephant in the room; to speak plainly and openly, and we, who listened, cannot merely watch. Now we know what that girl in the corner is thinking, or what that girl in the front row is feeling inside: we cannot be silent. We cannot find excuses in ignorance, looking away. We should not seek perfection but courage. We have to pursue the status of confidence needed to tear down taboos and openly accept everything that comes our way. We need to address our own elephant, bring it under the spotlight and set it free, so we can change our actions. We should be brave, not perfect.
Full conference available here.