From “Late Registration” to “Ye,” Kanye West has always been a cultural icon — but he recently joined the list of American embarrassments.
West is continuously making headlines, for better or worse. Earlier this month, he raised eyebrows by visiting President Donald Trump in the Oval Office. Yet, West has been in Trump’s corner for a while.
We have to ask ourselves if we can separate the art from the artist because I can’t deny that West has produced amazing music. Yet, I can’t separate him from his music when he puts personal anecdotes in his tracks and has produced politically charged songs like “George Bush Doesn’t Care About Black People.” West is his music and it’s hard to listen to him when I know his beliefs.
It’s hard to forget when West tweeted a picture of himself last month wearing the bold, red “Make America Great Again” hat with this caption:
“[This hat] represents good and America becoming whole again. We will no longer outsource to other countries. We build factories here in America and create jobs. We will provide jobs for all who are free from prisons as we abolish the 13th amendment. Message sent with love”
I was upset at West’s suggestion that the 13th amendment, which outlawed slavery, should be abolished. This comes after West, in May, said in an interview with TMZ that slavery was a choice.
“When you hear about slavery for 400 years…For 400 years? That sounds like a choice,” West said to TMZ. “You were there for 400 years and it’s all of y’all.”
This statement attempts to dismiss the acts of resistance by courageous black slaves. From the slaves who jumped ship because they would rather be dead than in chains, to those who ran away and rebelled, black resistance led to the end of slavery. The Haitian Revolution was one of the most successful slave rebellions in history, created an independent nation and was an influence for Nat Turner’s slave rebellion in Virginia. Slavery was not a choice — and historians agree.
West apologized for what he said, but didn’t retract it. Later on, he tried to explain his 13th amendment tweet in another TMZ interview. West said “abolish” was the wrong word choice, and the 13th amendment enslaves prisoners who are making eight cents a week.
By saying this, West’s tweet is hypocritical. His Yeezy sneakers are made in Chinese sweatshops, according to a report by China Labor Watch, a New York-based non-governmental organization that defends workers’ rights in China. The workers are slaving away for 10 hours, standing without breaks, only to make less than the equivalent of $200 a month. If West cared about outsourcing jobs to other countries and exploiting prisoners, his Yeezys wouldn’t be manufactured on another continent — especially given that a number of Chinese factories outsource prison labor.
Beyond this hypocrisy, visiting Trump in the White House solidified how far gone West is. Press filled the Oval Office to capture the meeting between two people who seem like polar opposites. West said at the meeting wearing the MAGA hat gives him power. He said he didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton because — spoiler alert — she’s a woman.
“The campaign ‘I’m With Her’ just didn’t make me feel — as a guy that didn’t get to see his dad all the time — like a guy who could play catch with his son,” West said during the Oval Office meeting.
It wasn’t her campaign, it wasn’t because she called young black males “superpredators” in the ‘90s, it wasn’t because of Bill Clinton’s crime bill … it was simply because Hillary is a woman and West has (valid) daddy issues.
West told the reporters he doesn’t answer in simple sound bites because he’s “complex.” In reality, he just talks in circles and is narcissistic enough to think what he says holds educational value.
People question the sincerity of the things Kanye West says and whether he acts out for publicity. This might be true — but I think West genuinely believes anything that comes out of his mouth to be gospel. The iconic rapper shows a lot of internalized racism, perpetuates misogyny and has reached a level of wealth that prevents him from connecting with anyone — especially those in the black community who look up to him.
I can’t look up to West when I see what he’s become. West’s talent has turned into a mockery. He’s an embarrassment to the black community when he used to be an inspiration.
Fans can no longer chalk his actions up to “Kanye just being Kanye.” West must be held accountable for what he says and does. West isn’t in the sunken place — he’s just an egotistical, materialistic douche who might need some real mental health help.
In 2016, West was placed on a week-long psychiatric hold and diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He recently admitted he went off his medication. This isn’t to shame West. Getting help for mental health isn’t something to joke about, and taking care of the mind is as important as taking care of the body. But we can’t keep ignoring West’s actions just to turn up to his music. Stop giving him your coin, streaming his music on platforms that make him money, buying his merchandise and seeing him in concert. Not supporting West monetarily is a language he will understand. Maybe he will take off that ugly hat and start listening to us instead of going on Saturday Night Live, claiming we’re haters that bully him.
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