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Saturday, September 03, 2005

Kanye West: No Class, Egotistical Jerk

In a moment when he should have been thanking people for their generosity, asking people to do even more, and, in general, being appreciative of the fact that people from around the world are rising to the task that hurricane Katrina left us, Kanye West instead chose to say some seriously nasty, unfounded things:

“George Bush doesn’t care about black people” and said America is set up “to help the poor, the black people, the less well-off as slow as possible.”
[...]
Comedian Mike Myers was paired with West for a 90-second segment that began with Myers speaking of Katrina’s devastation. Then, to Myers’ evident surprise, West began a rant by saying, “I hate the way they portray us in the media. If you see a black family, it says they’re looting. See a white family, it says they’re looking for food.”

While allowing that “the Red Cross is doing everything they can,” West — who delivered an emotional outburst at the American Music Awards after he was snubbed for an award — declared that government authorities are intentionally dragging their feet on aid to the Gulf Coast. Without getting specific, he added, “They’ve given them permission to go down and shoot us.”

Paranoid delusions from a man who once declared that AIDS was man made and sent to Africa to infect blacks. Instead of praising the declaration of intolerance for violent looters and criminals--and shooting them isn’t being done as some kind of a “let’s hunt black folks” weekend away for the troops--is simply a way to protect other citizens. In fact, it might even have the effect of protecting black people.

Could the response have been better? Sure. Although it would be safer to say that the preparation could have been better--that governors and mayors, in particular, might have been able to do more to protect their citizens.

But honest critique is a long way from a ranting racializing of an event that isn’t at all about skin color. I can honestly say that I haven’t heard about a single American who was reaching for their checkbooks and suddenly said, “Oh, hell, this might go to help some black people. Can’t have that.”

I can demonstrate reliably some people who have decided that they won’t donate to help because a) those are people that might have voted for President Bush, and b) they don’t think they should bail Bush out since the entire disaster is so obviously his fault. Nature and inadequate levees had nothing to do with it. So, who ends up looking sick in this? Bush and all the people who, regardless of valid criticism, are doing their best to help fix a horrible situation or people so fixated on Bush that they can’t see through to the reality: we’re all doing our best and we don’t see this as an issue of race.

The message to Kanye West (and everyone who agrees with him) is this: don’t make a bad situation worse by spouting out irrational nonsense. Pitch in and help along with the rest of us.

To that end, I don’t exactly join in Jeff’s call to invite “the conversation it’s been too afraid to have for 30 years”--or, at least, not quite yet. Let’s get the relief effort underway and make sure everyone is safe.

The truth is, though, that maybe it is about time to have that conversation on a national level--to face all the accusations of crack being a drug planted by the CIA in black communities and call that kind of paranoid fantasy for the bullshit that it is. Maybe it’s also time to acknowledge that racism is still a problem in the US, but that we’ve made and will continue to make headway against racism in all forms--including racist, institutionalized preferential programs that punish people based on skin color.

But before we get to that, let’s take care of cleaning up after Katrina.

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