George is Tired…of the Savior Complex

George is Tired…of the Savior Complex

No one person is going to lead us to liberation.

This is something that I’ve had to come to terms with, in my unlearning of all the things I’ve been taught in this anti-Black society. I used to buy into the idea that a person would save me from my existence. In a lot of ways, my family and friends still think this — and it isn’t their fault. They’ve been conditioned to think that the answer lies within one person. I’ve finally grown to the point to know that this isn’t true. The sooner I get others to realize it, the sooner we will get to liberation.

We were all conditioned to see symbolism in figureheads as our messiahs. When you look at how we discuss Martin Luther King, or other civil rights icons, it’s as if we’re waiting for the second coming of them to potentially be saved. I bought into that hype my whole life. I voted for Barack Obama twice, thinking that a Black man as president would “fix” this hell we have been living in since we were enslaved here. But, after seeing 8 years of leadership, I now know that putting a Black face on a white imperialist nation ain’t gonna fix shit.

In God We Trust

I believe that there is a higher power. I don’t know what that is, or what it looks like. But I know we didn’t just show up here one day. I also know what it means to have to believe that there is a God who can just fix anything and everything whenever they wanted.

And I’ve seen the jokes. We have all seen the jokes. “Did God sleep during slavery?” To be clear, this is a valid-ass question. My people have been through so much in this world, yet and still we put our faith in a higher power that seemingly blinks anytime we get closer to “progress.”

As we roll towards these midterm elections, I am seeing more and more of us start to get wrapped up in the savior complex. It’s similar to the Superman complex, in the thought that someone — one person — will save us and relieve us of our oppression. We have time and time again seen the caping for white folks who, when they need our vote, say the right things, only to get in a position of power and do all the wrong things.

I know for a fact that I will never find liberation through the eyes or work of a white person. They can, at best, advocate on my behalf to a point. But the thought that a white person is going to give up their privilege and power has left my mind as ever being a serious thought. I realized that particularly when I saw the white gays for Trump. I had already known the terrible threat that white gays posed in queer community, but that endorsement rang new bells. I realized anew how I felt about white male privilege, and the spaces in which it is used. I was reminded that these folks ain’t gonna save me from shit — but will fetishize the fuck out of me.

When Beyoncé put forth the words “God is God, I am not” during her 2016 MTV VMAs performance, I felt that shit on a spiritual level. When you get to a place where you have some power or platform to make decisions that benefit the people that you are fighting for, it is easy that you can be heralded as their leader — or even worse, their savior.

I am no one’s savior

As I continue to build my platform around activism, I see and understand how people can look to you as their savior. You’re the person who has the words when they don’t know what to say. You’re the person who is in the streets, representing all those who wish they could be there. I now know how dangerous that is — to have people’s hopes, especially queer people’s hopes, resting on the fact that I will always get it right. Or that I will be able to make the changes they need to survive.

We must do much better. We can’t continue to put all of our eggs in one basket and think that liberation is going to be formed. This message is so true, especially for queer people. This system of saviors has never reached us. We must begin to take an approach to the “work” that involves a multitude of voices — a multitude of experiences — that will shape and govern the progress we need to make in liberation. Putting that work on the shoulders of one person has never worked.

I am no one’s savior. No one should be. Not a white person. Not a Black person. Not a Black woman. And certainly not a Black queer person. We all have a responsibility to do our part in the work. We can’t place the burden of our liberation on the shoulders of folks who we know can never please everyone.  


George M. Johnson

George M. Johnson is a black queer journalist and activist located in the Nyc area. He has written for TheRoot, ET, HIVequal, TheGrio, TeenVogue, NBC News and several other major publications.

twitterinstagramfacebook