Kanye West has been making news lately for his comments that many people are considering to be absurd. In a series of tweets and an interview with TMZ, Kanye has expressed his love for Donald Trump, his advocacy for “free thought,” and that “Slavery is a choice.” While I think that the media is oversimplifying his thoughts in order to bash them even more, I still think that many of Kanye’s ideas are wrong. Kanye’s affection for Donald Trump is difficult to interpret. While I would like to believe that he is expressing a sort of “love your enemy” type of approach, I do not think this is the case. Kanye has expressed that he does not “agree with everything trump says” but he has not been specific about anything in this regard. Kanye proudly touts his red “MAGA” hat in a picture on twitter but says nothing about any of Trump’s policies and makes nothing but vague statements when questioned about it. I believe that Kanye admires Donald Trump in the fact that he likes his demeanor, and the fact that he came from virtually nothing in the political world to becoming the President. Its hard for me to believe that Kanye could actually support what Trump stands for considering many of the politically charged lyrics he’s written in past works, and a comment on the then-president George Bush saying that he “doesn’t care about black people”, but who knows… maybe Kris Jenner broke out the tea cup one night and really did send Kanye into the “sunken place.”
Kanye has vehemently been expressing his advocacy for “free thought.” I think that Kanye is viewing his statements and controversy as a free thought issue, and making it seem as though his comments are revolutionary and everyone who speaks out against his antics are “mentally imprisoned.” I don’t think that this is what the controversy is about. Most rational people would support this concept of “free thought.” What most people don’t support, however, is when someone is supporting a president who uses racially charged rhetoric and is implementing policies that are detrimental to the black community in particular. If Kanye gave legitimate reasons for supporting some of the things that Trump does then maybe people would respect it. But when you post a picture in a MAGA hat and tell the world that Donald Trump is “Your boy”, and give no semblance of an elaboration then yes, you will receive backlash and rightly so.
The most controversial statement that Kanye has offered us recently is the idea that “slavery is a choice.” While I think that this idea is being simplified and misconstrued by the media, I still think that the idea that he is trying to convey is wrong. Kanye is not simply saying that Africans decided one day “Let’s go be slaves.” He is not saying that slaves could have just walked away from the plantation if they didn’t feel like working that day. Kanye is trying to say that slavery is mostly psychological. He is trying to say that if slaves knew their power they could rise up and overthrow the plantation, given their advantage in numbers. This idea completely ignores history. There were many documented slave revolutions and instances of resistance. The question is: what happens after they overthrow the plantation? Organization between plantations is already extremely difficult, and even if a few plantations manage to overthrow and kill the plantation owner, what happens then? Where do they go in a majority white country with a white military enforcing laws that institute slavery? The narrative that Kanye is expressing is not a revolutionary idea. This idea of complacent, docile slaves is a narrative pushed by many on the conservative spectrum in order to frame the black struggle as a “personal responsibility” issue. Kanye being a black man and expressing this idea does not make him a “revolutionary who escaped the democratic plantation.” Prominent figures such as Bill Cosby and Ben Carson have expressed similar sentiments.
The idea that black people HAVE to think a certain way or support a certain party is wrong, and maybe that is what Kanye is trying to get at. Black people are not monolithic. But there is a reason that conservatives generally get less support from black people. There is a reason that Donald Trump is called a racist. That is not to say that black people can’t be conservative or support Donald Trump. But if you are going to express ideas that are viewed by many as having a negative affect on the black community then you need to, as Professor King would say, come with the receipts.