What you’re reading is the fourth iteration of an article ready to spend its entirety dissecting the meaning behind Kanye West’s recent outbursts. But I’m not going to do that anymore because right now, and as a longtime Kanye West fan I never thought I’d say this, I’m becoming sick of his shtick. And make no mistake, as far as I’m concerned, it’s all shtick. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself. Anything to drown this abnormal sense of personal hurt and let down that one of my favorite artists of all time is inflicting upon me. I mean, I’m going to say something about it, I just won’t be using all my allotted space to talk about him.
Kanye is out on the media trail to promote his newest album, a feat that typically energizes millions of his supporters. But instead of uplifting his fans, he’s taken to disappointing them by way of outlandish comments. Many of the people who helped put him in a position to marry a Kardashian, get liposuction, and create a popular fashion line in conjunction with global sportswear brand have been rocked to the core by some of the things he has said.
Most shockingly of all was his recent statement that he believes the institution of slavery was, his words, “a choice.” The list of why this kind of rhetoric is both bothersome on a personal level and damaging to the entire black community is long and nuanced. Some very smart people have already done a great job explaining the reasons.
And if I’m to be completely honest, in my years of writing columns for the Charleston City Paper, I haven’t found its readership to be adept at handling what most might consider “black issues.” Outside of the Mother Emanuel massacre which, to be fair, was too all-encompassing to simply reside within the “black issues” demographic, most of my posts that deal with things that concern the black community are either met with indifference or vitriol. There doesn’t seem to be an in-between.
Kanye West is a global figure for sure but, trust, the majority of his appeal still rests comfortably within the friendly confines of hip-hop culture which most associate as “black people stuff.” I’m mad at him but not so mad that I’d write a 1,000 word essay about the many ways he is messing up only to have some white dude, comfortable within anonymity of the comment section, to start popping off about Trump and/or freethinking and/or black people and their unquestioned loyalty to the Democratic party or whatever other alt-right Breitbart scoopety poop they pull out of their nether regions. I don’t have time for the negative energy.
I mean, these are the same people who, in the past, have questioned whether my discussions about “blackness” actually plays a part in holding black people back. They are the same people who called me an intolerant bigot because of my unwillingness to, and I quote, “tolerate [the Confederate flags] continued presence.” Seriously. So with that as our backdrop, let’s just not waste each other’s time on Yeezy.
But what we can talk about is the connection I see between Kanye West and his fellow free thinker, former Republican South Carolina Senator Lee Bright. By now, I’m sure you are all familiar with Kanye’s hamfisted, misguided, uninformed comments about slavery being a choice, while conveniently leaving out the whole “systematic oppression” and “white supremacy” stuff. But what you might have missed during that kerfuffle was that Mr. Bright, who is running for United States Congress by the way, said during a political forum hosted by the Greenville County Republican Women’s Club that transgender people are “confused” and have “…an issue with mental illness”.
At that same forum he was also quoted saying that if “we …” (I’m assuming we is referring to the Evangelical Christians of America) don’t handle this whole transgender mess correctly, “God is going to judge us…” adding that said judgement is “…going to be painful.”
Much like Kanye’s quote, Mr. Bright’s comments were shocking, misinformed, and presented without any factual evidence. It strikes the perfect balance of insanity and ambiguity, giving people on the left side of the aisle brain aneurysms while those on the right will be found nodding their heads in agreement. But unlike Kanye West, Mr. Bright isn’t new to the Make America Great line of thought. During his time in the South Carolina Senate, he sponsored a bill that would have prohibited transgender people from using public bathrooms that did not match their birth gender. That’s part of the issue many people have with Kanye right now, he’s humanizing people like President Trump and Lee Bright by building a bridge of commonality rooted in the suffering of others. Not only that, white supremacists that haven’t been emboldened by the actions of President Can-Of-Cheez-Whiz can now use Kanye as their cover, “Me…a racist? No way, dude. I love Kanye West and, therefore, I love black people by proximation.”
What kind of world are we living in where the man who went on MTV post Hurricane Katrina and said, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” is now rocking the same hat as politicians who resort to Christian scare tactics in order to get elected? How is it that the man who wrote lyrics about not listening to dudes in suits because 1) they only wear suits because they don’t know how to dress anymore and 2) they don’t know what they’re talking about, is now professing his love for a man who wears hilariously long ties?
I’m not exactly sure how to answer my own question. All I know is that I sure hope Donald Glover doesn’t fall prey to whatever has Kanye West tripping these days.