he says what we ALL want to say and it’s often true
george bush doesn’t care about black people. beyoncé made one of the best videos of all time. those claims, because of how they were delivered, in the heat of the moment and without script, shocked the world. they upset the balance of what was acceptable to say. they upstaged the main event, the mission of the forums in which they were delivered. they upset citizens and upended advertisers.
and they were both true.
they were both so true, in fact, that the narrative became about how to kill the messenger for delivering his screed in the way that he did. who doesn’t remember the way kanye shrugged after ripping the microphone from taylor swift’s palms? or the way beyoncé, camera fixed on her in an embarrassing moment, mouthed ‘KAN-YAY?!’ of course, we were invested in the spectacle (one that west created, to be fair). but that’s really the genius of kanye west. he doesn’t know any other way to be. that shrug signified what we know he realized in that instance. as in ‘oh sh*t I drank too much of that henny and now i’m on stage in front of millions, having just disrespected a white woman in america in service of making a larger point about why she doesn’t deserve the award she just won anyway.’ he re-lived the climax of Native Son, jack johnson’s fugitive run, the ’72 olympics black power fist and malcolm at the audobon ballroom in a few seconds of unplanned candor.
but does anyone remember the video that taylor swift won that award for? will history remember hurricane katrina as a triumph of government services to the poor and black people who were displaced in that tragedy? kanye sacrificed his black body because so many before him had been tossed away without regard. he figured, what’s another symbolic martyr when so many others have actually lost lives for sending this same message? but like the attention-depraved, fearful and unloving nation we are, we roasted him for the approach. we focused, typically, on the style and not the substance. and we ran him out of the town hall without examining what he was saying about the state of affairs. it’s hard to argue that someone doesn’t merit an accolade in a vacuum. taylor swift, in a single year, might have a song that’s notable, or even a video worth viewing. but taylor swift did not have the same impact that beyoncé did. bey had little babies, not yet thinking or remembering words, dancing faithfully to every move she high-stepped in that performance. it didn’t take a fool to realize that, but it did require a certain kind of courageous fool to say that aloud. congratulations kanye…for saying what everyone else was too afraid to say about how racism works in the modern era, to decry its insidious and insistent presence even in the so-called safe areas of entertainment.