UNITED STATES—I almost wrote on this topic last week, but for reasons I cannot fathom I resisted the temptation. I didn’t just want to jump into a situation and write about something because the rest of the world was talking about it. The one thing I have to point out is the fact it ushered in a debate about the notion of free speech and free thought. Of course, you all know I’m referring to rapper Kanye West. His tirade or rant (whatever you want to call it), on TMZ live was talked about for days. He said things that left my head turning; I was shocked by what I was hearing.
The biggest thing that struck out for many was West’s comments noting that “Slavery was a choice.” That created a ton of ire for many people who thought Kanye’s words were reckless, dangerous and just plain awful to say. So what is my opinion? It was extremely distasteful. I mean to say that slavery was a choice just baffles my mind, I cannot believe you even uttered those words. I mean think about your ancestors and all the African-American families that were torn about and destroyed because of slavery?
There is no way in hell any of those people enslaved chose to be whipped, raped, depraved, lynched and so many other worse things. In essence, it was almost as if Kanye West was saying that Jews wanted to be gassed and killed in concentrated camps. You just don’t say stupid stuff like that because you’re spitting in other people’s face and disregarding not only the progress that our country has made, but the fact that people suffered so that you don’t have to. His words were ignorant and there are consequences behind actions, which I don’t think West has ever really endured.
I mean watching TMZ staff member Van Lathan eloquently discuss with West a heart-to-heart where he didn’t rage at the rapper was beyond powerful. He said everything that I was thinking and did it without appearing overly angry or violent. West, without a doubt was disappointed with the dialogue delivered to him? You might say why? Well, I don’t think Kanye West ever expected anyone to challenge his authority or his presence. He’s a celebrity and many people place celebrities on a pedestal, but we need to stop doing so. They are no different than the rest of us, the only exception is they have a lot more money, can purchase lavish items and are surrounded by a ton of people who will say or do anything to continue to stay in their orbit.
I am not going to sit here and debate rather Kanye West has a mental illness, that is dangerous to do. While I have a degree in psychology, that is not my place to judge someone. We all have our demons and while West admitted he was addicted to opioids we have no idea to what degree the pills or the pills that he wasn’t taking impacted his behavior on that day. Everyone in America has an opinion on West’s mental state, but let’s allow a physician to make the final assessment and not judge someone before knowing the actual facts. Kanye does need to explain his commentary, because a lot of what he stated made absolutely no sense and that slavery comment is going to haunt him in ways that I don’t think he imagined.
People are boycotting his music, people are saying they have severed ties with the rapper, and I will be the first to admit that I loved Kanye West and his music when he first arrived on the scene in 2003. I mean his first album “College Dropout” was riveting. I related to so much of the dialogue this guy was speaking. He was eloquent, he was dropping truth bombs and speaking to an audience who had voices, but at the time weren’t really being heard. That album helped me get through college, when I questioned rather I was wasting my time doing something because I was ‘told’ it was the right thing to do versus doing something that I actually wanted to do.
His most recent albums have not been the greatest to me, but that is not why I’m slightly frustrated with the rapper. I’m wondering if this is something West has always thought about the African-American culture or the notion of free thought in general. We don’t allow people to say what is on their mind, and even worse we rail against them when they say something we don’t agree with. That is what civilized people call a debate. You hear pros and cons from both sides on an issue.
Now, with free speech or free thought (I still think it’s free speech), you can’t just say stupid things that are inflammatory and dangerous. It’s kind of what I learned in my American Constitutional Law class: you have the right to freedom of speech, but you can face legal ramifications if your free speech causes an eruption of what many considering fighting words, i.e. your goal is to incite violence. I mean the one thing that has always fascinated me is the brain and how it actually operates. I mean why do we blurt out what we say without thinking about it, how are things formulated before we even know they were formulated, why do we say what we say without even taking the slightest moment to think or process what we are about to say? I don’t have the answer to that question, I really wish I did, but it’s unfortunate that I don’t.
This whole issue of West destroying his career is up in the air, was the TMZ Live debate a stunt? In all honesty, I don’t know, I hope not, but with West being West I don’t think so. He was speaking his truth and it rubbed almost all of America the wrong way, so how he responds to the criticism at hand is in Kanye’s court. The one thing you cannot argue is that Kanye West sure knows how to get the rest of us talking.