Kanye Loves Kanye…and White Supremacy
3 big mistakes he’s making right now
Albert: I don’t know where this story fits into the conversation, but I’ll never forget seeing Kanye in 2008 at the glow in the dark tour where he went on a 30 minute rant literally begging Phil Knight from Nike and Steve Jobs from Apple to give him a meeting. He begged and begged. On his knees. In front of THOUSANDS of people. I’ve been thinking about that in the context of this “Trump” thing and how Kanye has pretty much been desperately craving the power of rich white men.
Valerie: He’s said that recently again “…Jordan is not my idol, Disney is my idol…”
Albert: Right! Kanye is in love with the idea of power and money. None of this is surprising when it comes to Donald Trump. Donald Trump is without a question the epitome of American male power and it doesn’t surprise me that Kanye is all over this. Kanye wants to do everything that Trump does. He’s powerful, he has money, and people talk about him every single damn day, and that is what Kanye envies.
Valerie: T.I. actually asked Kanye to explain what he agrees with Trump on, and his only response was that he is inspired by Trump’s ability to do what no one else could do, what everyone thought was impossible. So, Kanye admires Trump’s path to success, but fails to realize that Kanye cannot do the same thing because he’s not a white man. Trump’s path is not unique, it is called White privilege. Look at every successful rich Black person in this country, to these right-wing conservative racists, they are still just Black folks no matter how high they go up the ladder of success. The path that Kanye should admire is those which were actually impossible, and if he read just a book or two, he would realize that it is the success stories of those who look just like him.
Albert: He doesn’t agree with what Trumps says, he agrees with what Trump is.
Valerie: First mistake. He thinks that he is the first person to do this. He’s said that this is a “new direction for MAGA.” He is forcing an “evolution” and doing something that has never been done before. I’m like, ummmm you might want to ask all the black conservatives that exist about this new direction for MAGA, but ok.
Valerie: I know he’s saying that he’s not a conservative, but I don’t think that he’s the first person to ever refuse to recognize the damage that they produce while blindly supporting their rhetoric.
Albert: Well, it’s a common talking point that comes from a lot of black conservatives; the idea that they are “free-thinkers” and that they are not bound by the norms of left discourse, but at the same time all they’re doing is just rehashing the same talking-points of American imperialism and white supremacy that has been going on since this country’s inception. Kanye West brings up Candace Owens and says that she is a free-thinker - all she does is disparage Black Lives Matter and talk about Black on Black crime. Her opinion is as old as America itself. There really is nothing new about siding with American rhetoric about Black people. That is not new, that’s not free-thinking. It’s just what has been ingrained in you since you were born.
Valerie: The actual ideals of conservatism is not that foreign from what a lot of Black people believe, but we are not “conservatives” because conservative policies disproportionately affect us negatively.
Albert: Right. Take Kanye saying Black people chose not to be free during slavery. Some people may not say exactly what he said, but when people walk around with “I am not my ancestor shirts” or “Catch the hands master” or whatever else, they’re subconsciously saying that somehow they’d be able to do what those who were enslaved were not able to do.
Valerie: I think people want to disassociate the current socio-economic status of Black people in America from the idea of slavery so much, that they fail to see the systemic link between that status and slavery – and it is not that hard to find the systemic link.
Albert: It’s everywhere.
Valerie: People like Kanye and Candace are stuck on this “we’ve got to do better for ourselves” “lift yourself up” “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” “its the black communities fault,” whether or not they believe that racism exists.
Albert: In America, you cannot be seen as weak or victim. Even acknowledging that you are or were somehow under the boot of some oppressor is viewed negatively. So, people don’t want to be seen as victims, and Kanye West is very much a part of that. He has to figure out a way to understand the status quo as something that isn’t tethered to large swatches of black people being victims. (e.g. Black people being culturally or intellectually inferior). That is the ultimate sin in America, not being able to be superhuman in the face of oppression.
Valerie: Kanye is convinced, like some people before him, that if you just work hard enough, free your mind, and stop blaming the white man for your struggles, you could be free, you could be Kanye West. For him to sit there and say slavery was a choice, I mean can you read a book?
Albert: No, Kanye West is a noted non-book reader. He says it proudly. He does not read books. Why do you think he’s out here watching Scott Adams and Candace Owens videos? it’s because that’s all he can do. He doesn’t read. John Kasich aint doing videos on youtube…far right conspiracy trolls are.
Valerie: His argument that this is a “new idea” is a lie. There is nothing new under the sun when it comes to America and Race.
Albert: Kanye West conflates controversy with intelligence. He thinks that if he’s doing something that makes people mad or react, he must be doing, well, something…
Valerie: I mean, what kind of delusion of grandeur do you have to have?
Albert: It’s Kanye West.
Valerie: Second mistake. Kanye believes that the only consequence of his action is liberation for him. Its just reckless. I don’t see any acknowledgement from him that what he is doing is causing damage to the work that people have done, and to the work that is to be done.
Albert: Well, I’m pretty sure Kanye West isn’t thinking, full stop. I think he’s just acting out. I do think you make a good point about Kanye West doing things solely for him. I think about the Yeezus album, which is essentially just a 10-11 track album about how he has been wronged by the fashion industry, personally, because of his Blackness. He believes that he was shunned and not taken into the folds by the fashion industry because of his Blackness. All the while, telling Black people that they need to get over America’s racism. I think music critic Stereo Williams said it best: Yeezus was very good album, but it was “rich n**ga BLUES.” Kanye is able to understand racism on a personal level, but not on the macro. This stays in line with much of Black conservatism. Never forget Clarence Thomas described the Anita Hill hearings as a “high-tech lynching.” Being able to notice racism in your own personal life and being able to acknowledge how it affects poor or middle class Black people in society are two different things.
Valerie: On the TMZ spot, he claimed that people try to “minimize” him to “artist” hip=hop” “black community.” He says that he represents more than the black community – that he represents the world. I think I’m gonna need Kanye to unpack that. How can he possibly believe that he can compare being Black to being a member of an industry? He goes from rapping about being discriminated against because he is Black, and even as recently as the Charlamagne interview, acknowledging that the music industry is imbedded with racism, to believing that Blackness in America does not affect Black mobility; this is a county that refuses to reconcile its history with slavery. I know it first hand, I’m a child of Nigerian immigrants. When you come to this country, one of the first things you learn is to be Black. Unfortunately, in America, Black people don’t get to live and just be human. That is not an issue of consciousness or individual choice, that is what systemic racism is. That is what all these powerful social justice movements are about. He thinks he can remove himself from the stigma of Blackness as he sees fit. You know who wishes they could do that? All Black people!
Albert: Every Black person ever! All the time! Its’s because Kanye views Blackness as bad.
Valerie: He hates himself.
Albert: He thinks Blackness is a pejorative. Now technically, under the American social construct of blackness, he’s right. But, that doesn’t change the fact that he’s Black because society has deemed him Black. It’s very clear how he views his Blackness in relation to the world or the US specifically.
Valerie: That argument definitely comes up. People saying, “our race shouldn’t define us” or “we should just get to live as human beings.” I’m yet to meet one Black person who disagrees. I mean hell, I wanna live free too. People like Kanye will argue that living “free” is a choice – don’t get me started on his slave comment again. It’s a mistake for him to believe that the choice to be free from Blackness is America is that simple. The privilege he has stinks right now.
Valerie: Third mistake. He thinks that the problem we have lies solely with one individual or party – Trump. Trump needs to go. He is absolutely terrible, but he’s not the worst thing that has happened in history (how scary!).
Albert: Bush was pretty bad. I feel like we’ve forgotten how terrible Bush was. I’m not saying that Trump won’t get there, but those 8 years under Bush were…….terrible.
Valerie: I agree there, I think that whatever we experience in our own generation, we always feel like it’s the worst thing. It really isn’t, it’s just our time to fight this issue of racism that has existed in this country forever…
Albert: When people come out and say Trump is the most racist president, I think it is such an absurd statement in the presence of our history.
Valerie: I think people say that sometimes, not so much because of who Trump is or what he believes in, but because it is the first time we ever had a Black president, and the backlash to Obama’s presidency resulted in someone so overtly racist. We’ve never had a former president to compare it to. I think there are rightful challenges to some of Obama’s policies and decisions while he was in office, however the regression post-Obama, that resulted in the election of someone like Trump, is a wakeup call to many people. At the same time, if people were paying attention, we would realize that this kind of backlash is not new…
Albert: Yeah. Nixon’s election post the civil rights movement, post-reconstruction era, jim crow…
Valerie: Kanye is making the mistake that this is about Trump, not systemic racism. I don’t think he understands what systemic racism is.
Albert: I think that’s true, but I also think that a lot of people think of it in those terms as well. People heap animosity on Trump and blame him for racism without recognizing the institutional issues, and that is what Kanye is also relying on. Trump is just so outrageous and ignorant that people are missing the point.
Valerie: He’s a distraction…the real issue is in the policies. The real issue is in the system that operates whether Trump exists or not.
Albert: I don’t think that is a Kanye West problem as much as it is a societal problem. Kanye is focusing on Trump because we as a whole have focused on Trump so much.
Valerie: I think it may be a societal problem, but I think Kanye is also making that mistake. I think he needs to understand that no matter who it is, a tyrant white-supremacist president or the sweetest person who silently benefits off white privilege, they both are guilty of supporting systemic racism.
Valerie: Did you see Chance’s response?
Albert: Why the hell should we care about what any of these rappers have to say about anything? Chance, T.I., Cyhi da prince. When they come out and give their opinion and people get mad, why? They are rappers. Why do we care about what they have to say about anything else? The makes sentences rhyme. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Valerie: I think when you have rappers like Chance who has made a stance as a community-oriented person, and is a voice for people, he does have a responsibility. It is a duty whether or not they understand the duty or the influence they have over people. I think we have given artist a bit too much influence, but they are public figures and what they say matters. I think the question is not really whether what they say should matter or not, the fact is that it does and how do we deal with that after the fact?
Albert: I do think that celebrities have influence, but we often times inflate their influence to mean more than it is. Kanye West says these stupid things, and what does that mean? Are people going to sign up to be in the alt-right? Who does it affect and how many people does that influence?
Valerie: I think it’s hard to measure. However, every single day, I’m around people who are killing themselves in this fight for justice, making sure they are making a societal and cultural changes. Then here you go, having someone like Kanye engaging in such foolishness being picked up by every single major media outlet and social media platform. His arguments are disturbing and distracting from important conversations that need to happen about social change. Hell, he’s disrupting my conversation, but I think it is dangerous to ignore him. I don’t think Kanye West can bring about good or bad policy, what he can do is disrupt this fight for a cultural shift and I think that is damaging.
Albert: I don’t disagree at all, but what substantive thing does it change for Trump to shout out Kanye or Chance? no one will change their vote. I think that if celebrities were that influential and powerful, democrats would never lose an election because Hollywood is overwhelmingly democrat. However, I do agree that Kanye can dominate media concern while taking away from other things that need attention, although I’m pretty sure they’d just find some other irrelevant story to gawk at instead. But actually, more than anything, his power comes from his money and that’s a little different.
Valerie: I don’t think he can influence policy, but I think that in this society, culture and policy go hand in hand, it’s not either or. People have to operate the systems. People have to implement the good or bad policies. People operate the agencies no matter what’s on paper, and culture is such a big part of that, how we treat each other, how we view each other in this world. If there aren’t people to operate the bad racist policies, they wouldn’t work. So, I think while Kanye may not have an influence on law, he has an influence on culture and people. The questions and tension that I always consider is, how do we change the world, is it culture or is it law?