It is a vicious, slow-spreading bacteria that has infected some of the most well-meaning people of our time. Most often poisoning pulpit dwellers, the malady causes the victim—who usually has insight in one particular area—to believe he is a genius with answers to everything, including economics, history, politics and even behavior.
After studying the syndrome for years, scientists have concluded that anyone with a dedicated, attentive audience can catch the ailment by believing that their expertise in one area endows them with insight on every subject. We are all too familiar with it.
I call it “preacheritis.”
We’ve seen it convince a school psychologist that he is a life coach with the solution to all the problems affecting black people, even though he can’t convince his beard to connect to his mustache. It caused a divorced YouTuber who earned a Ph.D. in business to bamboozle his followers into believing he was an expert in bitcoin, wealth building and the black family. A marginally funny, thrice-married comedian infected with the strain figured out that unmarried women could resolve their issues with men by acting “like a lady” while thinking “like a man.”
In the most recent example, rapper and activist Killer Mike seems to be displaying mild symptoms of preacheritis. Hopefully we have caught the illness in its early stages and can eliminate it before it spreads, because it is sometimes ignored during the preliminary period.
When those who are familiar with the disorder point it out, they are sometimes dismissed as “haters.” Even though the epidemiologists at The Root have praised Killer Mike for his advocacy of banking black, his political prescience and his social activism, it is easy to rebut nuanced criticism by casting it as “clickbait hating,” which is why we wanted to make sure before we publicly diagnosed the Run the Jewels emcee.
When Murderous Michael Render said that black people “ain’t ready to oppose nothing” and were as much “a part of this system as any white person gentrifying in this city,” we didn’t say anything, even though he failed to point out that the reason black people weren’t hunting for meat and growing their own food might have something to do with the entrenched system of white supremacy and economic inequality that often doesn’t allow impoverished African Americans to own their own land.
When he waltzed onto NRATV airwaves to throw shade at gun-reform advocates, instead of telling him to shut the fuck up, we instead wondered why he thought it was prudent to talk about black gun ownership on a forum that serves as the marketing arm for the firearm industry while defecating on the Black Lives Matter movement, ignoring black gun owners and excusing police brutality.
We asked if he thought he was reaching a black audience with his NRATV interview. We wondered who was arguing against black people’s right to own guns. We even accepted his apology. We justifiably questioned Homicidal Mikey’s tactics, not his motives.
But he kept getting worse.
On Sunday, Joy-Ann Reid posted a picture of herself, acknowledging the people who helped her with her hair and makeup.
Killer Mike apparently saw the Instagram post’s H&M reference and responded by commenting, “So Me doing an interview about black Gun Ownership with the NRA is ‘bad’ but u promoting a company that tagged a Black Child a monkey is ‘good, cool acceptable’. Ok. Check. Smh. niggas...”
Reid, apparently unaware of Killer Mike’s previous preacheritis tendencies, educated the hip-hop star by explaining:
“H&M” stands for “hair and makeup,” The two women beside me in this pic did my hair (H) and makeup (M) for a shoot. ... And here I was thinking you were an intellectual, and not just the guy who hangs out in the sunken place talking guns with the NRA’s “official black guy.”... Also ... who starts a feud in Instagram comments? Is your Twitter account locked?
Of course, Black Twitter didn’t let the shenanigans go unnoticed:
Being socially aware and having the courage to speak out on relevant issues is laudable. But sometimes praise can go to one’s head and cause a person to start believing too much of his or her own hype. When an individual stops saying, “This is what I think” and begins saying, “Black people need to ... ,” preacheritis has usually set in. Our scientists note that the inability to believe in the stink of one’s own shit is one of the first indicators of early-onset preacheritis.
Luckily, there is a cure for preacheritis that does not involve mind-altering medication or prescription drugs. It is a 100 percent holistic, organic solution that requires one, but sometimes several, seats.
Maybe Killer Mike should sit his ass down somewhere.
No one thinks that Killer Mike should shut up about everything. Instead, he should refrain from commenting on the things about which he has no clue. The immediacy of social media sometimes lures us into quick reactions without first sitting down to consider nuance or examine strategy.
Make no mistake about it: We need more artists like Killer Mike; unapologetic public figures who are willing to speak out on the important issues that face our communities are necessary. I salute Render for introducing these topics in mainstream conversations.
But it is just as important that these celebrities educate themselves before lending their voices to a specific cause. When stars heighten awareness using misguided information, it becomes easy for people like Tucker Carlson and NRATV watchers to say, “Killer Mike is wrong about this thing. Therefore the thing for which he advocates should be dismissed.” This is the danger of celebrities speaking out when they don’t know what they are talking about.
It is easy to castigate Killer Mike by pointing and saying that “he got owned” on social media because he misunderstood a particular fact. His critics may seem like they are hating because they are quick to point out his mistake without acknowledging his larger point.
But isn’t that exactly what Killer Mike did?
If Black Twitter is hating on Killer Mike, then Killer Mike was hating on Joy Reid. Celebrities can’t use their outsized voices to criticize others and not expect themselves to be criticized in the same way. Even if Reid was wrong, it wouldn’t have erased the fact that Killer Mike sat down with the NRA, which paints any black movement as invalid and irrelevant.
To his credit, Killer Mike acknowledged his mistake.
It appears as if the two will get the opportunity to discuss the nuances of this argument, and this is a good thing. By giving Render a chance to expound on these issues, Reid is not just offering Killer Mike a seat at the table; she is offering something much more important: