Heard ’Em Say

Anthony Gilmore
Dec 21, 2016 · 4 min read

Kanye West Doesn’t Care About Black People

It’s been more than a decade since Kanye West essentially had his ‘drop the mic’ moment on national television. In 2005, During the Katrina relief telethon, Kanye shuffled awkwardly next actor Mike Myers, struggling to put together a cohesive sentence before hesitantly belting out:

“George Bush doesn’t care about Black people.”

Kanye’s statement may have came off as misplaced frustration, but it was actually quite rational. He was calling out a Bush administration that seemed apathetic in their response to Hurricane Katrina, and its aftermath. Kanye also touched on the role the media played in the misrepresentation, and even more so discrimination, of Black people during the broadcasting of the storm. His words acknowledged the general sentiments of the Black community during the Katrina tragedy.

Even though his delivery was inelegant, Kanye was well intentioned, and he certainly seemed to have an understanding of racial politics and the conditions of Black people in America.

Fast-forward to 2016, where Kanye can be overheard while performing on his Saint Pablo tour, that if he would have voted in the Presidential election he’d voted for Trump. President elect Donald Trump, who ran his campaign on racism, sexism, Islamophobia, and basically against anything that wasn’t white and male, has the support of Kanye West.

What happened to the civil rights Kanye?

Kanye has always been critical of issues dealing with racism, and his music has changed pop culture and the music industry forever and for always. Albums like Late Registration, College Dropout and the Graduation, that combined West’s style of spirituality, self-doubt, profanity, skill and awkwardness, are what paved the way for his legacy. His music, like his George Bush call out, ruffled the feathers of many while also pushing the political conversation forward.Today Kanye’s contributions are much less about critiquing structures of hierarchy, but rather ignorantly reinforcing them.

In his much controversial sixth album, Yeezus, Kanye used his platform to discuss the ways in which he has been heavily discriminated against by the fashion industry. With songs like Black Skinhead and New Slaves, Kanye makes critical assessments about race and racism, but in doing soon he sounds much less worried about ending racism and more irritated that he isn’t being given a seat at the table. It points to Kanye’s appropriation of Black history and struggle to generate sensationalism. Like his promotion of the confederate flag, which is a clear reminder of the United State’s troubled history with slavery and segregation, no matter how you spin it. For Kanye however, it becomes a fashion statement and way to generate buzz. His laments on systems of oppression are nothing more than a set of vague platitudes.

But, Kanye hasn’t been the only who has been problematic and indifferent to Black America. Recording artists Lil Wayne has also played his hand in this realm as well. When asked what he thinks about Black Lives Matter in a recent interview, Wayne responded: “I am young Black, rich nigga… if that don’t let you know that America understands that Black lives matter these days I don’t know what is”. Although it may be troubling, but nonetheless very real is the belief that if a young Black man can be rich, than racism doesn’t exist. What Kanye and Lil Wayne’s fame brought them was temporary relief from instances of racism, making it harder for them to feel that it still exist.

Should we expect all Black celebrities to be Conscious?

While we shouldn’t expect all Black celebrities to have a PhD in critical race theory, we should however, expect them to be conscious of race and nodes of racism, as they still persist in society today. In Kanye’s case, we are seeing someone who very well understands the conditions of Black people in America, and often harps on them , but strives to uphold those same disparities through misplaced values, such as materialism. Kanye West only cares about Black America when a new pair of Air Yeezy’s drop. Kanye west essentially plays the race card. He only brings up matters of race and racism when it suits him best. What has has become painfully obvious is that we can no longer take him serious in matters of racism, as he has made it perfectly clear that he doesn’t care about Black people.

“And I’ll never let my son have an ego
He’ll be nice to everyone, wherever we go
I mean I might even make him be Republican
So everybody know he love white people” -Kanye West, New Day

Secret History of America

New Essays in American Studies from UC Berkeley

Thanks to Michael Mark Cohen, Kristen Wilson, and Hayley Carter

    Anthony Gilmore

    Written by

    Secret History of America

    New Essays in American Studies from UC Berkeley

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