I remember when I was a kid my brother and sister and I would crack jokes on one another. Some jokes were funny; however, some jokes were mean and cut to the core. But no matter what, I knew at the end of the day, they were my family. And while they had the “freedom” to crack jokes or call me out for my behavior, I knew they would never let anyone else pick on me or vice versa because we are family.
This is how I feel about Kanye West. Kanye’s media-grabbing antics have consumed my timeline as people debate the mental stability of a man that many have called a genius. At just 41 years old Kanye West is a rapper, songwriter, producer, entrepreneur and fashion designer that has worked with some of the biggest names in the world. When he released The College Dropout in 2004, it took the world by storm as he rapped “Through the Wire” with his jaw still wired after a horrible car accident in which he fell asleep at the wheel. College Dropout also gave us the iconic song “Jesus Walks” earning Kanye numerous awards including a Grammy for Best Rap Song and a BET Award for Video of the Year.
Like Midas, everything Kanye touched seemed to turn to gold, and he appeared unstoppable. But life happens to all of us, and just as Kanye was enjoying his meteoric rise to fame, his mother and manager, Donda West, died one day after having cosmetic surgery procedures. While autopsy reports came back inclusive, Kanye West has always carried the guilt for the death of his mother. In an interview with Q Magazine, Kanye West stated, “If I had never moved to L.A., she’d be alive.” When asked what he has sacrificed for his massive success, Kanye West said, “My mom.”
Coming up on the Nov. 10 anniversary of her death, it was not surprising that Kanye West is acting in a manner that doesn’t align with ‘The College Dropout Kanye.’ Many have likened him to being in the sunken place like the protagonist, Chris Washington, in the hit movie “Get Out,” where Chris is stuck in a deep, dark place after white people seek to take over his body.
It was disturbing to watch Kanye give a speech in The Oval Office as Donald Trump, and the press pool looked on, snapping photographs and airing the meeting to the world. I watched and just shook my head. How did a man go from genius to standing shoulder to shoulder with a racist, embracing him and sporting his red Make America Great Again hat like it was Superman cape? The internet was ablaze with many expressing their disgust that Kanye would show his full support for a man that has been openly racist and whose policies seek to harm black people and People of Color.
Has Kanye West done some things we can call into question? Undoubtedly.
Can people criticize Kanye West for supporting a man who is racist? Of course they can.
Can white people speak about Kanye with the same language that black people use to critique Kanye West? No.
Similar to the story I told about my brother and my sister, there are some things black people can say about Kanye West that white people just cannot and should not say about any black person. Period. As a white person you may not understand it, but many times comprehension doesn’t have anything to do with compliance. On my Twitter feed, I am really starting to look at people suspect. This is not a free for all to say every negative thing you have ever wanted to say about black people underneath the guise of “resisting.” Kanye West is not the scapegoat for your covert racism. You don’t get to call Kanye West a coon. Please do not get so comfortable that you forget Kanye West is a black man, and you can disagree with him, you can dislike him, you can critique him, but if your critique starts veering off into racist language, that is when it becomes a problem. I am old school. If you can so easily speak about Kanye West in a particular manner, you can just as easily talk about me in that same manner. What is hidden always comes out, and some people have allowed what is truly in their hearts to come out in a tweet.
I am not sure what Kanye is going through right now. I can speculate that it may be some form of depression caused by the death of his mother. I just refuse to believe a man who wrote the following lyrics in “New Slaves” believes Trump is what is best for America.
My momma was raised in the era when
Clean water was only served to the fairer skin
Doing clothes, you would have thought I had help
But they wasn’t satisfied unless I picked the cotton myself
Kanye may feel Trump, and the MAGA crowd supports him now, but we know the truth. Their feelings have not changed. If you see above in one comment, Ryan is calling, Shannon Sharpe, scum, bitch and telling him to go back to Africa. And just 24 hours later, Ryan is singing the praises of Kanye West. You can’t have it both ways. When Ryan responded to Shannon Sharpe, that is precisely how he feels about black people, but he sees Kanye as one of the “Good Negroes” because Kanye is dancing to his beat. The moment Kanye stops dancing, Ryan will treat him just as he treated Shannon Sharpe.
As black people we know this. We understand this, and perhaps that is one of the reasons we criticize Kanye so harshly. The same way he stood defiantly on national TV after former president George W. Bush botched the rescue efforts in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and said, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” we need him to see that Donald Trump doesn’t care about black people either. Kanye West is a pawn in a game that I fear he doesn’t even know he is playing. His own actions have made him a target for criticism, and it is well deserved, however, what is not well deserved is racist comments by white people as they critique Kanye West. Kanye has his own demons to contend with, and his own battles to fight, but at the beginning and end of the day, he is a black man, and I am never going to side with a white person using racist language towards a black person in the name of “resistance.” Criticize Kanye all you want, but if you are sharing racist memes and language, it speaks more about what is truly in your heart than what is going on with Kanye West. •
Hannah L. Drake is an author, poet and spoken word artist. Follow her at writesomeshit.com and on Twitter at hannahdrake628.