The Kanye West Problem
It’s not just the rapper. It’s also a culture that continues to give him a platform.
Donald Trump aside, no-one has ever underscored the often-repeated argument that celebrities should stay out of politics with ink as thick and black as the line POTUS’s “brother” Kanye West draws every time he opens his mouth.
Uninformed celebrities, though, don’t act alone. TV, radio, traditional media, and social media give them massive platforms from which to spew nonsense and audiences that are way too eager to listen, “like,” “follow,” and “retweet.”
I blame the platforms and the fans as much as I do the uninformed celebrities. We’ve come to expect unintelligent, barely intelligible ramblings from Kanye, but why do the powers that be in entertainment insist on being complicit in his stupidity by giving him a place to spread it?
Kanye delivered his latest nonsensical rants over the weekend, and he couldn’t have done it without Saturday Night Live. What went down on the SNL stage after the show went off the air got far more attention than anything that happened during the 90-minute telecast.
Ye’s post-show monologue upstaged everything that came before it, but SNL creator/executive producer Lorne Michaels and NBC, the network that has aired the show since 1975, likely aren’t complaining. They got their morning-after publicity, and, courtesy of Kanye, we got this:
“I wanna cry right now. Black man in America, you’re supposed to keep what you feel inside right now. And the liberals bully you and tell you what you can and cannot wear, where you and they can’t not stare. And they look at me and say, ‘It’s not fair. How the hell did you get here?’ Well…
“Actually, blacks weren’t always Democrats. It’s like a plan they did to take the fathers out the homes and promote welfare. Does anybody know about that? That’s the Democratic plan.
“And what this shows is we can’t be controlled by monolithic thought. You can’t always have when you have a black subject matter like Cosby that you have to have a black comedian talk about it.
“It’s so many times that I talk to a white person about this, and they say, ‘How could you support Trump? He’s racist.’ Well if I was concerned about racism, I would have moved out of America a long time ago. We don’t just make our decisions off of racism. I’ma break it down to you right now: If someone inspires me and I connect with them, I don’t have to believe in all they policies.
“But this man is a builder. And when I said I’m running in 2020, all my smart friends talked so much shit about me. And when I saw that man win, I said, ‘See, I told you. I could have been there.’
“Now you got a situation where we need to have a dialogue and not a diatribe because if you want something to change, it’s not going to change by saying, ‘Fuck that person.’
“Try love, try love, try love. You see, they laughing at me. You heard ’em? They scream at me. They bully me. They bullied me backstage. They said, ‘Don’t go out there with that hat on.’ They bullied me backstage. They bullied me! And then they say I’m in a sunken place. You wanna see the sunken place? OK, I’m gonna listen to y’all now. Or I’m gonna put my Superman cape on. And this means you can’t tell me what to do. Follow your heart and stop following your mind. That’s how we’re controlled. That’s how we’re programmed. If you want the world to move forward, try love. Thank y’all for giving me this platform. I know some of y’all don’t agree. But y’all be going at that man [sic] neck a lot, and I don’t think it’s actually that helpful. I think the universe has balance. Ninety percent of news are liberal. Ninety percent of TV, L.A., New York, writers, rappers, musicians. So it’s easy to make it seem like it’s so, so, so one-sided. And I… I feel kinda free.”
“I love you, Kanye,” someone in the audience shouted when he was finished. Kanye’s response: “I love me, too.” And don’t those four words say so much more about him than the mouthfuls that preceded them did?
It’s impossible to argue with Kanye, because like so many Donald Trump supporters, he speaks in generalities and banalities, not specifics. He’s never offered any coherent intelligent reasons why he’s Team Trump. He’s never addressed any issues, never addressed why he’s OK with a President who would allow brown babies to be ripped from their parents. Has being the father of three young (brown) children not given him an ounce of empathy?
He’s never addressed why he’s OK with a President who defends white supremacists. No matter what Kanye thinks about slavery (He’s infamously said it was a “choice” that black Americans made), I cannot believe that in the corner of his mind, where there’s no social media and no television cameras, that he’s fine with white supremacists and believes there are “very fine people” among them.
He’s never addressed why he’s OK with a President who thinks his celebrity gives him carte blanche to grab a woman by the pussy if he wants her. Does Kanye think his wife is the only woman who deserves respect? He’ll go after Nick Cannon and Tyson Beckford for commenting on Kim Kardashian, but he has no problem with “Brother” Trump publicly insulting women for the way they look?
After SNL, he suggested that he wants to challenge the assumption that all black people are Democrats. Does that mean he’s a Republican? Can he even name any Republican politicians other than Trump? Can he list three items on the Republican Party platform?
Does he realize that Trump’s Republican Party has absolutely nothing to do with Abraham Lincoln’s Republican Party, which became the Republican Party we know and loathe when it nominated Barry Goldwater in 1964. (Of course, given his distaste for the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which was among Lincoln’s crowning achievements, Kanye would probably welcome the disassociation.)
Please. I’d be shocked if Kanye has ever even heard of Senator Barry Goldwater, a staunch opponent of the Civil Rights Act of 1964? If Goldwater had had his way, Kanye wouldn’t even be able to talk sh — at the same lunch counter, or in the same public restroom, as Trump.
Instead of playing devil’s advocate just to prove he can think for himself, why not try actually thinking? Why not challenge the racist assumption that black people are childlike simpletons with little to no intellectual value? In trying to counter one stereotype, Kanye is just reinforcing another one.
Listen Up, Kanye. Slaves Didn’t Choose Their Shackles
You can’t play the race card when you lose at the Grammys and then act like systemic racism is black people’s fault.
I blame his fans and celebrity culture as much as I do Kanye. Why do they continue to give him a platform? Why do shows like SNL use this mentally ill man as bait to get people to watch? Are ratings and trending status that important?
Why are Kanye’s fellow rappers, who devote so many of their rhymes to bemoaning the disenfranchisement of black America, so reluctant to publicly rebuke him? Several white stars have eloquently expressed their disapproval. Actor Chris Evans and singer Lana Del Rey are among the ones who didn’t suffer Kanye’s foolishness quietly when he endorsed abolishing the Thirteenth Amendment (you know, the aforementioned one that ended slavery in the United States) the day after the SNL debacle.
But what about his fellow black hip-hop stars, the ones who would demolish a white celebrity for making such insane racial pronouncements? They should be among the loudest dissenters. John Legend and will.i.am can’t be Kanye’s only black peers who have the guts to challenge him without mincing their words.
Make Kanye West smart again
Maybe Kanye just loves a good slogan, and “Make America great again” appeals to his wordsmith sensibilities. (I know, I know. Low, low bar.) If there was no cap, no catchphrase on which to hang his stream-of-consciousness sermons, would he have lost interest by now?
Jimmy Kimmel called out Kanye calmly and beautifully during their chat in August on Jimmy Kimmel Live!: “You so famously and so powerfully said George Bush doesn’t care about black people. It makes me wonder what makes you think that Donald Trump does — or any people at all.” For once, Kanye was speechless.
Weeks later, he belatedly answered Kimmel’s question during an interview with Chicago radio station WGCI 107.5 FM:
“I feel that [Trump] cares about the way black people feel about him, and he would like for black people to like him like they did when he was cool in the rap songs and all this.
He will do the things that are necessary to make that happen because he’s got an ego like all the rest of us, and he wants to be the greatest president, and he knows that he can’t be the greatest president without the acceptance of the black community. So it’s something he’s gonna work towards, but we’re gonna have to speak to him.”
Come on, Kanye. Craving acceptance, popularity, and votes from a demographic (and that’s probably all blacks are to Trump — a demo) doesn’t mean you care about them. Trump doesn’t care about black people any more than Kanye cares about anyone other than himself. But, as Lana Del Rey hinted at in her Instagram take-down, their bond is shared narcissism.
We may be stuck with Trump (for now), but we’re not stuck with Kanye. We created the Ye monster, and we have the power to silence it. But first, we need to stop enabling him. The first step will be to take away his megaphone.