Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Messianic Tendencies


New Orleans is in the grip of Saints mania.

As the team's date with destiny in the Super Bowl draws closer, people down here get more and more crazy. Saints gear is ubiquitous, Super Bowl parties are the new black, and the Saints are single-handedly curing racism.

Wait, what was that last thing?

Yeah, as a media publication in the city recently pointed out, the Bless You Boys are bringing unity to a city long divided along its racial fault lines. Black, white, yellow and brown are all realizing that the only colors that truly matter are Black and Gold. President Obama couldn't save us from racism, but "Breessus" can. He has the power to heal the world and generate a perfect quarterback rating.

Yeah, my head almost exploded too.

The idea that the Saints are a uniting factor for the city isn't something dreamed up by just one media outlet. It's been a recurring theme throughout the team's Super Bowl season. Here and there I've heard about the fact that "Who Dat Nation" should be celebrated for both its fervor and its diversity. One of New Orleans' most famous dishes is a pot of gumbo, a tasty combination of a variety of ingredients, and in some quarters folks have been trying to apply that metaphor to the city's residents for decades.

The Saints are only the latest in a long line of racial Messiahs. That's right, I said Messiahs. After all, the word just means savior. And it seems like white people, and a few of their black friends, have been searching for a racial Messiah to drive away the scourge of racism for far too long.

Obama most recently carried the mantle before the Saints. Despite the fact that Louisiana is a blood-red state, here in New Orleans Democrats still hold sway. During Obama's presidential run, people were swooning at his ability to unite different races behind a common cause. They thought he finally represented the end of racial strife; they believed his election would heal all past wounds. And, of course, he failed.

I mean, I wasn't shocked, and I don't think many intelligent black people were shocked. We understand that the when it comes to matters of race, searching for a Messiah is a bogus proposition. But, our white brethren must have missed that memo. They continue to believe that a lone Negro will rise in the wilderness to free his people and heal our land. It's not exactly clear what this Negro will free black folks from, but I'm guessing it's the racism in our minds.

I guess if you were shortsighted, you could blame someone like Martin Luther King Jr. for this complex. Then again, when Dr. King was alive, he wasn't viewed as the Negro Messiah, juat a convenient spokesman for his race.

In fact, King regularly got criticized for making race relations worse, not better. But, over the years, his legacy has been warped to make him into this mythical figure that healed America through his preachings of non-violence and unity. Anybody who knows anything about Civil Rights history knows that is a complete farce, but it hasn't stopped white folks from lapping it up like ambrosia.

With that mindset, they've set out to find another person who can do what Dr. King supposedly did. They want a figure who unites without making people feel bad. Someone who can end racism in one fell swoop without all of that nasty hard work. It's no surprise that people are jumping on the idea that the Saints can be racial healers. It's a simple equation. If the Saints win, racism dies a little bit. What could be easier?

Then again, what happens when if the team loses? Does that mean racism wins? What about if the team has a crappy year next season? Does that mean that the racial divide in the city will get worse? The problem with creating racial Messiahs is that you simplify a complex issue, and imbue individuals or symbols with power they just don't possess. The Saints have no power to "fix" racial problem. Neither did Barack Obama. Maybe, just possibly, the Saints can make people feel relaxed enough to deal with some of their racial issues head-on, but I think that might even be too much to ask.

There is no racial Messiah. All we have are us and God. The sooner we realize that, the sooner we can start improving things.



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2 comments:

Darth Whitey said...

heh, if the Saints lose that means racism wins, lol. Reminds me of how ball players thank God for helping them win yet they never blame him when they lose heh heh heh.

Go.... Colts!! :-)

Leigh C. said...

"There is no racial Messiah. All we have are us and God. The sooner we realize that, the sooner we can start improving things."

Amen.

Raving Black Lunatic