First it was Kanye. Then came Kim, even if other statements make clear she doesn’t exactly agree with her husband. After that, Chance the Rapper came out in support ideological diversity.
In case the trio decide to delete any their tweets, here are three that give you the idea.
You don't have to agree with trump but the mob can't make me not love him. We are both dragon energy. He is my brother. I love everyone. I don't agree with everything anyone does. That's what makes us individuals. And we have the right to independent thought.
— ye (@kanyewest) April 25, 2018
Kanye will never run in the race of popular opinion and we know that and that’s why I love him and respect him and in a few years when someone else says the same exact thing but they aren’t labeled the way he is and you will all praise them! Kanye is years ahead of his time
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) April 25, 2018
Black people don’t have to be democrats.
— Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) April 25, 2018
Independent thought? Years ahead of his time? Black people don’t have to be Democrats? One would think these wouldn’t be controversial statements. The Ringer, however, has an alternative opinion. Sean Fennessey writes:
Like thousands of people my age, Kanye West acted as a kind of mirror. Sometimes, it was the type you’d find in a department store dressing room, tilted, slimming, aspirational. Sometimes it was the kind the Evil Queen in “Snow White” would gaze upon — a mask for the hideous. It felt like the mirror shattered Wednesday. For 15 years, Kanye has been a maker of things that people love and a maker of statements people love to hate. But his music — the thing that keeps his followers invested — has routinely been coronated as innovative, rewarding, exciting, incisive, delirious, vulnerable, ferocious, and restorative.
He’s a waterfall — a sight to behold and dangerous. In the days since he returned to Twitter, a social media application that has changed the world and makes people feel miserable with a grave profundity, Kanye has clipped the barbed wire around his mind and begun espousing the empty phraseology of alt-right thinkers who rallied around President Trump.
Yes, Kanye sounds just like Richard Spencer, what with his assertions that we don’t have to agree with everything anyone does and that we have the right to independent thought. Okay, maybe Spencer employs the “not everything” defense when examining certain madmen from the 20th century, so the parallel the Ringer is drawing can be mapped out with a plethora of string, sticky notes, a chalkboard, and at least one reference to Bigfoot. But to assert that Kanye is doing the same as the alt-right is just ridiculous and it proves the point Kanye, Kim, and Chance were making
Voting Against Your Interests
It would be too easy at this point to trot out various well-worn arguments about voting against one’s interests. It’s not an argument that’s specific to any race or nationality; that’s what makes it so magical. That doesn’t mean the counter-argument is more valid—that people of any race have to monolithically vote in one direction to further the interests of the whole.
Maybe, just maybe, individual black people—just like the rest of us, unless we live in Kansas—can vote in a way that comports with their own beliefs and interests. Maybe, just maybe, that doesn’t mean that their blackness should be at the forefront of any their decisions when they step into the voting booth. It also doesn’t preclude it. That’s kind of the thing about individuality. That some black people think and vote in ways that are aligned with their group interests while others vote based on self-interest should be yawn-worthy. Yet here we are.
Especially, as Patrick Ruffini notes, the black vote isn’t exactly as homogeneous as we pretend it is. Among black men aged 18 – 29, Trump wins by 17 percent. Even for those over 55, Trump is up by 5.5 percent. So, it’s not like Kanye and Chance are espousing a view held only by them. The Mooch gets it, even if he sounds like a t-shirt from the late ‘90s.
Please Set Your Clocks Back to 1992
Who would’ve thought we would have gone backwards between then and now? All of you who post messages on Facebook about, “Well the votes are in, please set your clocks back to 1950,” please recuse yourself from answering that one. Kanye admittedly didn’t even vote, though he says he would’ve voted for Trump. In that, he’s not alone. Celebrities, like regular citizens, are very fond of talking about elections while not pulling any levers themselves.
There is also the fact that these tweets don’t mean much with regard to Republicans’ chances. Trump, despite the narratives about how and why he won, is mostly a president for the capitalists. (Perhaps just of the crony variety. But that’s an argument for another day.) This doesn’t mean he’s popular with all black people any more than he’s popular with all white people. We’re not all capitalists, crony or otherwise.
This isn’t an earth-shattering revelation, as Steve Yates picked up on back in 2011 in an article for Prospect Magazine. He writes:
In the past 30-or-so years, hip hop has tried politics and it has tried gangsterism. But in the end it settled for capitalism, which energized it and brought it to a position of global dominance. American rappers like Puff Daddy and Master P, men who fought their way into the big time, did so by selling a vision of independence, empowerment and material success. That vision is also found, if less vividly, in Britain’s rap music. And though hip hop retains unpleasant features, the core theme that people can have better lives is a good one, and that’s important.
Kim and Kanye didn’t come from dire straits, but they’ve exceeded their birthrights. They have better lives than they were bequeathed. That’s worth celebrating, even if one personally disagrees with how they did so or how they choose to behave now. Chance the Rapper, well, he didn’t exactly come from humble beginnings, either. That he also seems to have eclipsed his birthright, however, is equally worth celebration.
In case y’all forgot, this is America. Eclipsing our birthright is what we’re all about.
For the aforementioned public figures, does that inform their opinions on politics? Certainly. Is that a bad thing? Not even a little bit. Chance’s father worked in government, including for a former president named Barack Obama that most of you have probably heard of. His mother works for the government in Chicago, also likely thanks to Obama. If anyone should be all about the Democrats, it’s him, yet he’s willing to go in the opposite direction.
‘There is the United States of America’
That shouldn’t be surprising. As Obama said, “There is not a liberal America and a conservative America—there is the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America —there’s the United States of America.”
With Kanye, Kim, and Chance’s comments, we’re reminded of that truth. While we’re prone to dividing ourselves electorally along tribal lines, and often ascribe extra requirements to voting with regard to those lines, that’s not a reflection of reality.
Reality simply states that we are Americans and that we share a sense of purpose and a variety of goals. Sure, we disagree about the means, but that doesn’t negate that purpose, those goals. If Kanye wants to extol individualism, while Kim and Chance offer support, even if they don’t wholly agree with him, then maybe the American experiment is still doing alright.
Which isn’t to say that Mooch, though he gets it, is an oracle. We’re different races, even if we’re all of the human race. That’s essential to the melting pot. But if we focus on that shared humanity, and celebrating the diversity that arises from that shared humanity instead of demanding fealty along racial lines, there’s hope yet. So grab that t-shirt you picked up at the mall in the ‘90s and rock it. Despite our current mood, our best days aren’t behind us, even if it takes rappers and reality stars to remind us of that.