Today a self-proclaimed “proud non-reader of books” represented the Black community in meeting about criminal justice reform and police brutality with the leader of the free world. I’ve gone to bat for Kanye for a long time, but there is no forgiving this.
When my high school English teacher called him a misogynist after he released the music video for “Monster,” I told her he was a misunderstood artist. When he told the world he was Andy Warhol, Walt Disney, “Shakespeare in the flesh,” I said he was the greatest creator of art since Michael Jackson. But his self-absorption has gone too far.
His new political beliefs turn against everything he built his fame on and every reason I supported him and his music. But even after his first couple tweets, I had to concede he was not wrong in saying Black people could be Republicans if they really wanted.
Today Kanye went much further than tweets and SNL rants about his personal political opinions. His platform is now allowing him to influence politics on a national level with a knowledge base that is unquestionably insufficient for the task.
Kanye West is “uniquely unqualified” (see what I did there?) to be helping craft policy for marginalized and forgotten Black communities. The complexities of the systemic injustices that stretch back to the first slave ship landing in Jamestown in 1619 take extensive research and analysis to understand. It is a dangerous and irresponsible use of his platform to propose policies based on “talking to people and living real life,” instead of researched and supported facts.
Kanye’s inability to understand the 13th Amendment is only the most recent evidence of his inability to grasp these issues. Before that, his isolation in Calabassas left him with no connection to the world around him. He didn’t even know what the Muslim Travel Ban was.
Sure, one woman did receive clemency as a result of Kim Kardashian’s meeting at the White House, but this is insignificant in the grand scheme of things. When the Justice Department is reversing Obama era policies that lessen penalties for non-violent drug offenders and literally ordering prosecutors to pursue the harshest possible charges against suspected criminals, one ceremonial clemency grant looks more like a cover up than a step toward real reform.
Even in this era of Trump, anti-intellectualism and reality TV politics should have no place in antiracist activism.