May 2, 2018

PINERO | Kanye West Never Cared About Black People

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I unfollowed Kanye West after the first MAGA tweet. Without hesitation, I jumped on the bandwagon calling for his “cancellation.” I spent most of Tuesday looking like the white guy blinking meme as I watched Mr. West word-vomit all over Twitter and call four hundred years of chattel slavery “a choice” on TMZ. This column was going to be a scathing condemnation.

Instead, my curiosity led me to watch ’Ye’s extended conversation with Charlamagne, also released on Tuesday. Over the course of a virtually uninterrupted 105-minute stream-of-consciousness, I came to see things differently.

What I realized was: y’all love to act crazy, huh? It always has to be a melodrama. With the coverage this story is getting, you would think this man was the modern day Malcolm X. But this man already told us — almost two full years ago — that he loved Donald Trump. To make sure his position was crystal-clear, he made sure to add, “Specifically to black people, stop focusing on racism. This world is racist, O.K.”

He said this! Out loud! In public!

This is not breaking news. Kanye has always been transparent about his values. It is your fault for continuing to deify ignorant cishet black men who have told you, repeatedly, that they are not here for you. Y’all just refuse to listen.

After the initial Trump tweets, but before watching the interview, I had decided that Kanye-the-musician and Kanye-the-man were two different people. Kanye-the-musician is one of a handful of individuals, among them Beethoven and Picasso, who are personally responsible for paradigm shifts in the boundaries of human expression. Kanye-the-man, on the other hand, is just a nutty man with kooky opinions who makes squishy shoes.

Mr. West’s apparent ideology is rife with contradictions. He has spent his entire career engaging in vociferous critiques of consumerism and mass incarceration as racialized tools of social control, yet somehow suddenly reveres laissez-faire capitalism and believes BLM is some sort of whiny victim’s crusade. Like Jaden Smith, I found myself unable to reconcile my admiration for ’Ye with my revulsion for the Uncle Tom spamming my TL with the Manic Episode of his Minstrel Show. So, I unfollowed him, and set out to write a brutal roast about his selling out.

But after nearly two hours of watching Kanye be Kanye, I came to a realization. Kanye-the-artist only exists because Kanye-the-man does.

His politics are as abstract as the beats he produces, and as elitist as the bars he writes. He is here to create new modes of expression; he is here to expand our minds; he is here to challenge us. He is not here for you. He does not do this for you.

For those who haven’t seen the interview, two particularly revealing exchanges elucidate why this Kanye is the same Kanye we’ve always known.

One occurs at the very end, when Charlamagne presses Kanye to own his statements about Trump, a man who “marginalize[s]… people that look like you.” ’Ye responds thoroughly and thoughtfully. He first acknowledges that he doesn’t “have all the answers,” then describes how he felt inspired seeing an “outsider” elected.

We shouldn’t be surprised. We have always known two things, definitively, about Kanye West’s id: he yearns to be accepted, and he yearns to be a leader. That a rich, insecure narcissist sees himself more clearly in another rich, insecure narcissist than he does in the huddled masses should not come as a shock.

The man’s best friend is a white lady who once said, “Kanye, to me, is the most political, experimental and fundamentally humanitarian of all. Not by explicitly donating, supporting or consoling the poor, but by living, in his own body, the change in a way that is not easy.” This is a real quote. You should never have deified this man then, and likewise should not waste energy vilifying him now.

The other exchange happens around the thirty-minute mark. Kanye explains his spiritual rationale for making those controversial comments. His explanation makes perfect sense once you remember he is philosophizing, not politicking. ’Ye discusses his frustration with the Manichean dichotomies that govern our society — how we see our fellow human beings in terms of us versus them, of “home team versus away team.”

He reiterates that the only force powerful enough to break those chains — to break the grip of fear — is love. He reminds us that our love must extend beyond our own tribes to include our enemies and even those who wish to do us harm. This is not a new idea. Obviously, Trump is no friend to people of color; but for ’Ye, it is about love, humanity,and a bunch of other intangible ideas rich people have the time to sit around and ponder.

Please understand: Kanye West is not your community organizer. He’s not the leader of your local NAACP. He is a wealthy, selfish artist whose passion for justice is purely conceptual. He does not care about you. He never did.

Y’all need to stop wasting all that ink and everybody’s time with these thinkpieces critically engaging with the implications of Kanye West’s brain farts. Not only are y’all saying the same thing, y’all are really analyzing the dude who said, “poopy-di scoop.”  This man really secured a sample, produced a beat and went in the booth to say: “scoop-diddy-whoop, whoopdi scoopdi poop, poopdi-scoopity”. Enough!

Perhaps next time, instead of lamenting the failure of yet another weak black man, you might use your platform to tell us, for once, about the success of a strong black woman.

Jade Pinero is a junior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at jpinero@cornellsun.com. Jaded and Confused appears alternate Thursdays.