“Because it doesn’t matter that West is rich. Or that he has the beautiful wife he has always claimed to want. It’s not about having his two healthy, lovely children or a successful career. It’s about having all the ideas in the world but not the temperament to explain them. It’s about being deeply talented but profoundly insecure. His screaming about awards and his lamenting over being outside a lily-white “in” crowd that he’s never getting into are evidence that he wants the kind of white acceptance no one can or will ever give him, no matter how many times he lets them rap along to his songs using the n-word.”
Danielle Belton, Editor-in-Chief, The Root
‘Kanye Doesn’t Need Another Think Piece; He Needs Therapy‘
One of my favourite voices in journalism, Danielle Belton wrote this about two years ago when Kanye West was in the early stages of a profoundly public, months-long breakdown. She wrote this in February 2016 and by November of the same year, Kanye was eventually hospitalised after suffering an apparent nervous breakdown.
It’s 2018 and once again, Kanye seems to be in the midst of… something. I actually started writing this post last week, a few days after his eventful return to Twitter, where he praised right wing commentator Candace Owens and declared his love for U.S. President Donald Trump.
Then things died down and I put it away. I hoped that one of my favourite musicians had gotten the help he’s crying out for and that his circle had closed around him to protect him.
But then yesterday, during an interview with TMZ live, Kanye claimed that the 400 years of slavery which Africans endured in the Western hemisphere “sounds like a choice.”
It brought me right back to Danielle’s prescient words about Kanye’s craving a kind of acceptance he will never get. When she wrote her piece, it was about Kanye’s frenetic Twitter cries to billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg and Larry Page begging them to give him money for his projects. It wasn’t a new theme – Kanye had bemoaned his inability to break down the barriers in the fashion industry in his infamous ‘How Sway‘ interview.
As Danielle pointed out “this is not how famous rich people typically go about things” but she noted Kanye had “hit the highest of glass ceilings” and that what seemed to be eating him up inside was a craving for a different level of access and acceptance.
“What he wants is entry into a place where no amount of money or fame can buy him access. He wants to be part of some “I’m in Skull and Bones, I went to Harvard/Yale, I’m white and male” s–t.“
Shit that’s not happening.
At that time he was begging for acceptance from the kind of people who are liberal and may even be allies in some situations. Now, he’s gone further and what we’ve seen unfold over the past fortnight is Kanye seemingly trying to ingratiate himself with the kinds of people who follow a president who has actively created a hostile space for blacks and other U.S. minorities in the United States through his words and actions.
Just yesterday, T.I. posted a clip of a him debating Kanye on his Trump comments and once again, we hear echoes of this craving for an acceptance that will not come as Kanye defended his wearing a MAGA hat, saying:
“When I wear this hat, it’s like a fight for equality. Like ‘oh I can wear this hat too.’ ”
In a way we can relate. No, not to praising Trump or diminishing the systemic brutality of slavery.
But hasn’t craving white acceptance been making black people crazy since 16-how long? Throughout the diaspora?
Colonialism and slavery did a number on us all and the psychological scars are still very much present. Kanye is like the woman or man you know who bleaches their skin – something widespread in parts of our Caribbean. His words are a blunter expression of the thing that makes many still view the natural hair that grows out of black people’s heads with suspicion.
It’s perhaps the thing that causes us to flock to vote for politicians far lighter than the majority of West Indians in disproportionate numbers. There are some islands that when you look at the list of political leaders elected throughout their modern political history, you can scarcely find one darker than a paper bag. (To be perfectly clear, I’m not talking about those who inherited office on the death or illness of others. I’m talking about who we as West Indians chose.) It’s the unspoken thing beneath the memes about the Barbadian Prime Minister’s nose.
It’s the thing that causes us to view ‘making it’ in entertainment terms as success in North America or Europe. Yet there is a whole African continent where the largest and most populous countries share the English language with us and are so culturally similar that the barriers we’d have to overcome are far lower. And if you’re not sure, perhaps you have never watched a Nigerian movie, laughed at a Kansiime or Emmanuella video, wined your waist to some soca-sounding Afrobeat or realised that the kukere, azonto or gwara gwara dances could have come straight from a Jamaican dancehall. But we don’t look there.
It’s the thing that underpins so much of what we consider the ‘standards’ to which we should aspire and it’s the thing spilling out of Kanye now.