Wait, What: Kanye West Said He’d Have Voted for Trump if He Voted at All, and We Can’t Ignore That
Right off the bat, because I know it’s going to be asked about: if you wonder why anybody should care about what a star’s opinion is on politics, then you haven’t been paying close enough attention to this election.
Last night at a concert in San Jose, CA, Kanye West stopped in the middle of a song to launch into one of his epic rants. This latest installment saw West venting about last week’s election, with him saying he didn’t vote. Perhaps more controversial than that, however, West also said that if he did vote, he would have voted for Trump.
Many of the accounts of the night come from folks who were livetweeting the concert. One video, recorded by Twitter user @albertoreyes, captured what West said, which was: “I told y’all I didn’t vote, right? But I didn’t tell you… I guess I told you. But if I would’ve voted, I would’ve voted for Trump.” Check out the video below in its entirety, where you can also hear the crowd’s reaction, which was, predictably, all boo’s.
— albertoreyes (@albertoreyes) November 18, 2016
After the concert was well and truly derailed, somebody ended up throwing something at West, which hit him. West responded by threatening to cancel the show right then and there, asking the crowd, “Am I not allowed to have an opinion?” West also shared his opinions on the state of race and racism in America, specifically asking black people to “stop talking about race so much.”
It was, to be sure, a surreal moment for the attendees, one that honestly feels like par for the course for West fans who have managed to stay on board with the artist through multiple strange media encounters. Lest we forget, West was the guy who went on live television after Hurricane Katrina hit to say, “George Bush does not care about black people.” Those words (and Mike Myers’ reaction to them) have gone down in history as one of West’s most memorable quotables.
This does indeed feel like one of West’s patent rants, delivered to garner attention and controversy for himself and his brand. By writing this up, I acknowledge that yes, we are giving him attention. While I’m still fully expecting comments telling everyone to ignore him, I want to say that it’s exactly that kind of attitude that allows for things like the 2016 election to happen. By ignoring the problems when they’re on a floating, lighted stage yelling at us through a mic, we become complicit. By suggesting we “forget about him” or even ableistly write him off as “crazy,” we turn a blind eye to the kind of sentiment that foments beneath the surface of this country, the same sentiment that motivates people to put a demagogue into the highest office in the land.
Do not for a moment think that we’re going to fix anything by ignoring things like this.
So I mean, how does someone go from “Bush does not care about black people” to “stop talking about race so much”? How does one go from being a highly visible critic of an administration notorious for its ineffectiveness and racism to a supporter of an administration that’s shaping up to be the same, if not worse? It seems, in a lot of ways, that West may have forgotten what it’s like to live outside of the privileged bubble he’s in now.
While those privileges don’t directly counter the fact that he may still face prejudices due to the color of his skin, they certainly insulate him and protect him from feeling a lot of the effects of this campaign and this election firsthand. Basically, yes, he still totally experiences racism, I’m sure, but perhaps not in the way that you or I or any of us who are less privileged experience it. At least, this seems to be the only reason that makes sense to me as to why he’d even say he’d vote for Trump, the man whose campaign embodies hatred and the very things that keep racism alive in America.
The thing is, that bubble that West might find himself in is, also, the very same bubble that got many of us in this situation in the first place. Since the election, much has been said about the “white liberal bubble” that burst the moment Trump was declared the winner. There was, in essence, a sense of complacency, a denial about the work still yet to be done in this country. Because of life within that bubble, people weren’t understanding how Trump could’ve possibly won (answer: because this country is really effing sexist/racist/prejudiced/everything).
West’s stance on the election and the state of race in general reflect the same kind of complacency, the same kind of lack of understanding at just what the more further-flung consequences of this election will be. More than that, it represents a very singular “me-focused” understanding of what a Trump administration might mean. It is, in so many ways, the opposite of what someone who once dubbed himself “the voice of a generation” should say.
If anything, West’s rant on stage last night shows just how far removed he is from the very generation for which he claims to speak.
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