In a now infamous TMZ interview, Kanye West shocked his fans by arguing that ‘slavery was a choice’.
Following multiple pro-Trump tweets by the rapper, it seems like he has fully declared his political stance; pro-Republican, slavery-denier.
This seems like a strange conversion, especially given the political enlightenment and nuance that he blends seamlessly into his songs.
It seems outlandish that the person who wrote salient lines such as ‘Racism still alive, they just be concealing it’ and ‘Hands up, we just doing what the cops taught us … Hands up, hands up, then the cops shot us’, has done a complete 360 to support a egomaniac who openly despises the BLM and other movements for equality.
Of course, many of Kanye’s reasons for supporting Trump, while bizarre and frivolous, can be expected somewhat. Kanye has always been one to shock audiences to the highest degree, his political preferences included. Trump is an equally – and undenying – polarising figure, one whose intrusive and shameless public persona parallels Kanye and has earned his respect.
Kanye has clarified his political stance; he may be a Republican but he is wary and aware of the pitfalls of the party. If he supports Trump, he does so because of the way Trump presents his policies and views, rather than because of those policies themselves.
This brazen political support alone has garnered much criticism, especially amongst a youth audience in which Trump is – rightfully – vilified.
Arguably, it shows some privilege that Kanye, as a rich celebrity, will be able to supersede the policies underlying the Trump regime, that promise to cause huge unsettlement to lower class people within the USA. He has the privilege to not have to vote on issues, but instead on personal preferences – something that detaches him from the woke ‘insider’ status he has long cultivated with his fanbase.
However, this political leaning is forgivable compared to his most recent comments, specifically those denouncing slavery as a choice on the part of the slaves. This has received extreme backlash from many, public and celebrities alike. It is dangerous to try to claim a historic usurpation of rights as a choice on the victims’ part. It is victim blaming to the highest degree possible.
Whilst this comment alone deserves all the backlash it has garnered, in true Kanye style, the interview did include some politically-robust nuances that have escaped attention.
Although presenting it in the worst way possible, Kanye went on to clarify that what he meant to speak about was ‘mental enslavery’ that many black people still experience within the US. He argued that this was a choice, attempting to place a spin reminiscent of Du Bois and other revolutionaries. Again, this shows his privilege – he does not experience most of the discrimination that many black people do in America, which they would in no way say is a choice.
However, some nuances in Kanye’s speech may prove his continuing salience, even if it misses the mark in several points. He talks about the need to bring class back to the political attention, something that is of course important especially as Trump himself won the presidency off promises to solve the class divide in the US.
Equally, Kanye talks about the need for representatives of the black community – of course he nominates himself for this role – to meet the president in healthy, open debates. This is true and, as Kanye has managed to grab Trump’s ever-distracted gaze with these most recent comments perhaps he will be successful in this. Hopefully, he will revert back to the politically salient, if outlandish, person that his fan base support him for.