The Disappointment of Kanye West
When false idols show their true colors
Kanye West has been on a roll lately. Recently returning to twitter, the pop culture world has watched Kanye tweet about his shoes, give semi-spiritual advice [???], and talk about the massive amount of music he’s helping release in the coming months. Last Sunday, we saw Kanye tweet his support of right-wing commentator Candace Owens. Not only is Owens anti-BLM, but a staunch supporter of Donald Trump (who makes money off the racism she says doesn’t exist). Wednesday, the world watched as Kanye continued his twitter rants, but this time with his support for President Trump. As many in Black America (including myself) watched in disappointment, many have oversimplified Kanye’s problematic actions. Sure, Kanye isn’t a political figure, and I certainly wouldn’t endorse getting political advice from him, but it still stings to see someone you artistically admire dismiss the notions of a proven racist.
The Kanye conversation is actually many conversations, ranging from the idolatry of public figures, the ranging realities of living in different socioeconomic tax-brackets, and separating art from artist. There have been many of assumptions made, ranging from: Kanye’s mental health, Kanye’s craving for proximity to power, full blame to the Kardashians (which is mostly rooted in misogyny), and more. I don’t know Kanye, so commenting on said subjects would be presumptuous. Beyond the public presumptions, these ideas ignore where the disappointment truly is centered. What we are seeing should not be dismissed as the same wild actions we’ve seen in Kanye’s past or “usual Kanye”. This conversation is not about the timeline of HOW we went from “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” to “We [Trump] both are Dragon energy” either. This conversation is solely about the fact we now are at a time which Kanye is wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat on twitter. It’s that now, even after his initial meeting, Kanye aligns himself as an ally, with a man who is a bigot.
Aligning yourself with a proven racist is dangerous. Being tolerant to intolerance is also dangerous in a way that socioeconomic or social riches can’t fix, whether it’s Kanye, Kim, or any celebrity. When we dismiss the severity of intolerance, we become slowly become numb to its continuous reality. Kanye’s approval of Trump dangerously normalizes who Trump is. This isn’t about Republican or Democrat, that’s a separate conversation in itself. The Black experience is far and wide in this country, the idea Kanye should automatically subscribe to one way of thinking, is ignorant, but this isn’t even about that. This is about the reality of who Donald Trump is, and continues to show himself to be. This also isn’t about “free thought;” either. You’re “free” to think whatever you want, no matter how awful it may be. “Free thinking” doesn’t exempt you from the social repercussions of supporting a man of oppression. The concept of “free thinking” should not be confused with critical thinking, which uses facts to form opinion and thought. The seriousness of who Trump is, what this administration is, shouldn’t be taken anything less than seriously. Publicity stunt or not (which Kanye doesn’t need), it personally feels problematic to seemingly dismiss the continual actions of a proven misogynistic, xenophobic, racist, to sell CDs. It isn’t a hyperbole to state there are many women, immigrants, collectively poor, and overlooked populations in this country who are having their lives changed because of this administration. It’s disappointing to see anyone align with such an administration. I am empathetic to those disappointed when those such as Kanye, whom we’ve deemed as cultural heroes, align themselves, as allies, with those who care nothing about our Black lives. Which came first, the false expectations we place on celebrities with our idolatry, or the almost expected disappointments we face from said celebrities?
These things said, I don’t believe Kanye “owes” anyone anything. He doesn’t owe anything to me, Black America, pop culture, or anyone else. If anything, he only owes it to his children to be a “good” father. This [in my opinion] means the explanation to his white family, that his black children face a different reality in America, no matter their socioeconomic status. It’s odd Kanye is choosing to dismiss this reality when he seemingly understood this at one point, stating on 2004’s “All Falls Down” [College Dropout]: “And for that paper, look how low we a’stoop, Even if you in a Benz, you still a n*gga in a coupe”.
It’s been wrong to project my personal values on Kanye, hoping he might relate, through our respective Blackness. His music has spoken to his fan base, allowing us to believe we knew someone we didn’t ever truly know. For Kanye to be “lost” implies we truly knew who he was, when at the end of the day, he’s just another celebrity. I do believe Kanye has the power of influence though, through his music, and contributions in the fashion world now, with Adidas. Are there repercussions for his actions? There are always repercussions, just the same for anyone else. How we react, is on all of us, respectfully. Maybe Harvey Dent was right, “You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain”.
Side note: As my friend Fonda reminded me, we still have Beyoncé.
Sources: The Root, Footwear News, Refinery29, New York Times, Essence, The Fader, Vox, Rolling Stone, YouTube, College Dropout “All Falls Down”, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy “So Appalled”