Kanye West, with his Make America Great Again hat in tow, is at it again. On Sunday he tweeted a picture of his red cap with a full caption about what it means to him. "[T]his represents good and America becoming whole again," he wrote. "We will no longer outsource to other countries. We build factories here in America and create jobs. We will provide jobs for all who are free from prisons as we abolish the 13th amendment." To round his tweet out, he added: "Message sent with love." His tweet prompted instant outrage because it was both a show of support of Donald Trump and another example of West fumbling over one of the most horrific and significant moments in American history: slavery.
West later clarified on TMZ Live that he had made a typo, essentially. He meant that we should amend the 13th amendment — which abolished slavery and indentured servitude, except as a punishment for a crime — not abolish it. Clearly someone watched Ava DuVernay’s 13th. But he did not back down on his support for Trump and by extension, his belief that Trump will use his presidency to take action on prison reform. The prison industrial complex disproportionately affects people of colour and immigrants. Trump has positioned himself as a symbolic icon for institutionalised white supremacy and racism, so West’s faith in him is outlandish. But an entertainer's feelings about the ancestral history and president that we share isn’t the kind of thing that keeps me up at night — until it is.
Unfortunately, we do not have the luxury of shrugging Kanye West off, as badly as we may want to, because after November 2016, anything is possible in politics.
When I initially sat down to write this, I fully intended on making the case that we do not have to descend into a state of outrage every time Ye opens his mouth. His recent ramblings about slavery, the 13th amendment, the president, his own companies, and even Drake's use of the nickname "KiKi" have made me roll my eyes. But I feel the same kind of apathy towards him that I would for an uncle who is still trying to convince me that Beyoncé is queen of the Illuminati. As egregious as his opinions are, they aren’t the kind of thing that I am inclined to take seriously. And they damn sure don’t light a rage fire within me. West is, first and foremost, an artist and entertainer. As such, he is certainly not the guiding force on my moral compass. And if Yeezy were any other celebrity, I would exercise my right to tune him out. Selective indifference requires neither cancellation nor celebration, and I’m convinced it has done wonders for my skin and edges. You should all try it, but not with Kanye West.
The husband of Kim Kardashian West is not just a celebrity sharing his opinion about history and the state of the country. When he accepted the Video Vanguard Award at the 2015 VMAs, he announced his intention to run for president in 2020. Last month, the rapper explained during a radio interview that he still plans on running, but is going to wait until 2024. As it stands, we have no reason not to believe that this is exactly what he’s going to do. Unfortunately, we do not have the luxury of shrugging Kanye West off, as badly as we may want to, because after November 2016, anything is possible in politics. There is a huge chance that all of West's misinformation and problematic alignments could impact our lives in a very real way should he win any public office.
It’s very possible that West’s views will do more than add colour to his legacy as one of the greatest hip-hop producers, a fashion visionary, cultural disrupter and yes, an advocate for the black arts and creativity. The same man that notoriously held a fistful of Amber Rose’s ass in one hand and a bottle of Hennessy in the other could easily be the next president of the United States. Stranger things have happened.