In part one of “Pick Me, Choose Me, Love Me,” we listened to the story of the proverbial black person waiting
on another Malcolm or Martin to “save” save them, shooing away the common man and mocking the so called “paperblack prophets” who put on Martin’s skin, do a pantomine, but aren’t the real thing. The following is the original work that inspired that post … a story of people annointing a man king, a disgruntled TV host
and a plea for people to follow their own paths and get off the curb.
(More after the jump)
I saw the blood dripping from your caring hands
I prayed it wasn’t more blood
Than your month could stand
I didn’t hear you say
Kick my pedestal away
She never wanted to be my neon messiah
— “Neon Messiah,” Terence Trent D’Arby
They say “Jesus Saves,” but everyone else … not so much. And just like the Christian church has debated Christ’s “volver” since 383 (or longer), black Americans have drifted between self-sufficiency and looking for the next savior.
From the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. to “Keep Hope Alive,” many have waited for a catalyst, an actor, a hero to push us into the next phase of our ascention.
I have bad news to break to you.
Your Ready-made Messiah is not coming.
(More after the jump)
Then candidate, now President Barack Obama tried to impress upon people that “we are the change we have been waiting for,” but that was met with deaf ears by many who heard what they wanted to hear.
Finally! He was among us! A glittering “Neon Messiah,” beaming onto them hope for a better future. That someone was coming to save the people from themselves. Someone was coming to do the heavy work and point the way.
But this type of logic works for Bruce Willis blow-em-ups, not the real world.
The NAACP celebrated its 100th anniversary this year and I was quoted in a recent Associated Press article about my views on the storied organization — largley because I mocked them as amongst “The Fallen” on my Secret Council of American Negroes satire blog. But for all the criticism I’ve had for the modern NAACP, the organization is far from useless. This is an entity that has survived ego and conflicting identities and has consistently outlasted the stars who developed out of it. Leaders fall. Martyrs are born. But the NAACP lives on. It’s a mess, but it lives on. It is in the power of many that real change is created, not in the hands of the annointed few.
Yet many wait, and before people fell head over heels for Obama there were the surrogates, the individuals who all clamored for Martin’s mantle of the voice of black America. Your Al Sharptons and Jesse Jacksons, all with mixed results. Some more influential than others, with their titles being more media appointed than anything else.
As I’ve often joked, if black America actually has “leaders” someone needs to be fired. Management has been slipshod at best.
We have our paperback prophets and weekend activists and that’s great and inspiring and these things develop ideas and create inspiration, but at the end of the day someone has to take the words and make them kenetic.
This doesn’t mean that the likes of Cornel West and Michael Eric Dyson don’t have their place, or politiciians like Cynthia McKinney and Maxine Waters. Or that aspirants like broadcaster/writer Tavis Smiley don’t have their use, but sometimes a hubris is born when you have a publishing deal and a fan following. There are those who are meant to inspire and educate and then here are those who do the work. It annoys me when people who essentially get paid to give their opinion drape themselves in the cloak of activism when the cloest thing to a revolution they ever got to was sweating on the elliptical machine while pumping “It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.”
The sad (or funny depending on how you look at it) thing is that some of these paperback prophets don’t realize what they are, especially Smiley, who got his feelings hurt last year when he learned that when given the choice between a charismatic talk show host and the first African American president of the United States, he became a speed bump people dug up and drove over in their pursuit of destiny.
Or loyalty (or fickleness) was finally revewaled to him as he put on the “pick me, choose me, love me” act and was burned and left playing the part of the jilted lover. How could black America turn its back on him for a prettier prophet with actual potential? After his great contributions of news briefs on the Tom Joyner Show (now fired from its flagship station in Chicago), a few books, a bevy of “big thinkers” at the State of the Black Union (a perfect storm of media attention, semi-activism and commercialism) and lazy PBS interviews.
Where is the love, black America? Did it mean nothing when he thought black folks chose him over Robert Johnson and BET in their fight?
Of course it meant nothing.
It was an ideological battle. It was a battle of emotions. But no one ever thought Tavis was coming to save their soul. They hoped maybe he’d do a story or mention their plight in a book or show up at the symposium, but they won’t be naming any buildings after him.
The people will show you, rather crudely no doubt, who they will follow and who matters. In the end, Tavis fell into the column of ego and artifice, a place where he had actually always been, but no one bothered to tell him because of that power vacuum, that lack of a Neon Messiah.
He would do. But he wasn’t “The One,” as Oprah announced to South Carolina nearly a year ago.
Of course, when black America gives you that pedestal, places you upon it and annoints you king, you don’t exactly say, “No. Stop. Don’t.” either. The love is intoxicating. Who wouldn’t be excited? Who couldn’t get caught up? It was easy and wondorous and romantic. There was a courtship in it all that made it seem too good to be true and no ammount of gravity will bring some people down. And it’s OK to believe, want to believe, be excited and be hopeful when often our lives are so cynical and jaded that joy seems like an indulgence we can’t afford.
But despite Barack Obama’s seemingly magical qualities, including performing the miracles of insta-temporary homes for the down-trodden, unemployed black secretaries and radio internships for the McDonald’s hamburger shufflers of the world, Barack Obama is not going to save your soul.
Politician. Not prophet.
Half the time he’ll probably piss you off and if you’re a Democrat that’ll be 50 percent as he’s always too hot or too cold, that political porage never “just right” as Liberals and moderates debate.
But how do you get people to separate the man from the myth?
I’m a writer, so I write about pretty much whatever pops in my head about the Obamas, from politics to the frivolous. I’m also a believer that no matter what I write or say people are going to place the president on his pedestal and expect miracles. I have no interest, nor do I feel it’s my job to reguarly play Debbie Downer to the dellusional, as if that would do anything. I prefer my role as casual observer, occasional fan and satirist who sometimes has something of meaning to say.
But to paraphrase D’Arby, I never wanted to be anyone’s Neon Messiah.
The Black Snob is also not going to save your soul. Nor is any other blogger.
I’ll be supportive. I’ll write. I’ll even do some activist-like things from time-to-time, but I have no false illusions of what I am, what I am doing and what I enjoy.
I don’t think the president does either, but then his job is several shades bigger and more important than mine. Even as he’s not a “magical Negro,” he does have the power and ability to create massive changes for better and worse. The not knowing is the miracle for me, the possibilities.
At the end of Gnarls Barkley’s “Going On,” Cee-lo Green breathes the words “don’t follow me.” Considering the song is about picking up your roots and making a break for it (for better or worse), the meaning of those last words are up for interpretation. To me, they signify the notion of doing something for yourself and because it is right for you, not just because someone else does it. Not to make an indivudal more than what they are because of something you are lacking in yourself. That, perhaps, you should work on building from within so you can be active in your own ascention and not a passive participant, waiting on the bus stops of “We shall overcome someday.”
I hate to inform some of you, but someday is today.
Don’t wait for prophets. Find your own something and move your feet in that direction.
Find your own direction. Don’t follow me.