May 1, 2018

AHMAD | The Problem With Kanye West’s ‘Free Thinking’

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Last week, many of us felt the harrowing effects of what can only be described as a national tragedy: the downfall of Kanye West.

As someone who has loved Kanye’s music since sixth grade, viciously supported him through the ups and downs of his beef with Taylor Swift, praised the diversity of his (albeit insanely overpriced) fashion line and even forgave him for his completely nonsensical rant on Ellen, I was, to say the least, disappointed when I saw his Twitter tirade of painfully unrelenting support for Trump.

I will admit that when I first read the Tweet That Started It All, I wasn’t immediately horrified or shocked. In fact, I chuckled at the unironic use of the phrase “dragon energy,” and I couldn’t really argue with Kanye’s claim that he “loves everyone.” I told myself that this was just another inflammatory statement tweeted out for favorites, tabloid headlines and “Kanye West is so crazy” reactions. Simply put, I assumed he just said it for attention.

Unfortunately, however, he didn’t stop there. He went on to show off his signed MAGA cap, bash Obama for doing nothing about Chicago in his 8 years of presidency and post a screenshot mocking John Legend’s private message asking him to reconsider his tweets. While I understood why all of those things were infuriating, the statement that I took issue with most was when Kanye tweeted “I don’t agree with everything Trump does.”

That is a phrase that I’ve heard a lot — both from Trump supporters prior to the election and from Trump sympathizers in the nearly year and a half since. To me, this phrase has become a refusal to take responsibility. It has become a method used by Trump supporters to dismiss themselves from having to explain why they align with a racist, misogynist, lying president. Of course nobody agrees with everything that anyone does, but by saying you support someone in spite of their horrible actions, you are saying that you are comfortable overlooking those actions.

It is immensely dangerous not to give Trump’s racism, sexism and classism the weight that it warrants, or to casually dismiss it under the umbrella of “non-political correctness.” When do we come to the consensus that labeling Haiti and African nations as “shithole countries,” retweeting false crime statistics from a White nationalist page or calling for a database to track Muslims in America are not examples of “free thinking”?

So my question to Kanye West is: if you don’t agree with everything Trump does, what do you agree with?  If 90 percent of the things that Trump says are racist or sexist or flat-out lies, and you agree with the mere 10 percent that are not, then why are you a Trump supporter?

Just this weekend at a rally for re-election, Trump gave a speech in which he asked if there were any “Hispanics” in the room. In response to this question, the crowd booed. Trump then responded by saying “That’s okay…in all fairness, Kanye West gets it.” It is statements like these that make me wonder whether or not Kanye West truly understands what he is doing by publicly declaring his love for the president. The fact that he doesn’t agree with Trump doesn’t matter when a room full of conservatives are able leverage the support of black celebrity and use it as proof that nothing Trump says or does is problematic, and that anyone who opposes it simply isn’t a free thinker.

Kanye West is allowed to have political opinions. He is allowed to support Trump. In fact, maybe we shouldn’t even be surprised that he does — after all, 60 million people voted to make Trump president. But Kanye West is not allowed be surprised that people — celebrities and fans alike — no longer want to associate with him. When you make yourself a political cudgel for a bigoted leader, there is nothing “free” about your thinking.

Faiza Ahmad is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at fahmad@cornellsun.com. The Fifth Column runs biweekly.