Kanye West spirals further into conservative controversy

Grammy-winning and internationally renowned rap artist Kanye West’s recent actions have led to a wave of backlash and criticism among his fans, political activists and fellow music artists.

West recently wore a “White Lives Matter” shirt alongside conservative political commentator Candance Owens, made an appearance on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” and subsequently expressed a string of controversial comments including multiple anti-Semitic remarks.

The latter comments were vocalized through West’s Twitter account as well as private messages which he leaked on Instagram. A now-removed tweet of his stated “I’m a bit sleepy tonight but when I wake up I’m going death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE. The funny thing is I can’t be Anti-Semitic because black people are actually Jew also. You guys have toyed with me and tried to black ball anyone whoever opposes your agenda.”

Furthering the controversy, West also recently made comments on George Floyd’s death while on the “Drink Champs” podcast, stating “They hit him with the Fentanyl. If you look, the guy’s knee wasn’t even on his neck like that.” The claim that a Fentanyl overdose caused Floyd’s death has been widely debunked, including by a medical expert under oath at the trial of Derek Chauvin.

West’s comments and actions are dangerous and impetuous. They follow a trend of the rapper having more outspoken conservative views in recent years.

Before beginning to dissect the problem with West’s actions, one must acknowledge his battle with bipolar disorder. The artist has been dealing with the disorder for many years and was hospitalized for a mental health breakdown in 2016. West has also opened up about his suffering from manic episodes.

It’s important to establish that West deserves help and care in regard to his mental health. No matter how severe his actions get, his suffering from bipolar disorder is still valid and should be treated as such. However, I believe that West’s political views and actions are separate from his mental health issues and deserve to be criticized.

The core issue with West’s actions, aside from the fact that his ideology itself is flawed, is the manner in which he communicates his beliefs. Rather than articulating his views in an organized and nuanced fashion, his comments are often surface-level talking points designed to attract media attention, as shown by the George Floyd comments and “White Lives Matter” shirt.

“White Lives Matter,” as both a phrase and the eponymous white nationalist group, started as an obvious response to the Black Lives Matter movement. “White Lives Matter” is a reactionary concept that solely exists to serve the manufactured victim complex of white nationalists. Assuming West’s adoption of the phrase is anything but a stunt for media attention simply doesn’t make sense.

West’s comments are also often intentionally vague and not substantive in any way. A good example of this is in his “Tucker Carlson Tonight” interview when he was talking about Nike, stating “It’s not there to be as big of a financial company as it can be. It’s there as an influencer because Black people love Nike. So Nike is like a company that is redlining and gerrymandering Black people.” The vagueness of pseudo-intellectual statements like these makes West’s comments appeal to a large audience while being non-falsifiable.

Many who defend West often proclaim that he has a right to have a different opinion than what is expected of him. Nobody disputes this, and using this as a defense of his comments is merely an obfuscation from the main issue at hand. People criticizing West are criticizing the actual content of what he’s saying, not his right to say it. He has a right to freedom of speech, but so do the people criticizing him.

Wholeheartedly, I just want to see West improve. The artist has shown that he’s capable of using his wealth and influence for benevolent outcomes, such as helping his father build a charity in the Dominican Republic and donating $2 million to the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. I’m strongly rooting for West to break free of his reactionary rhetoric, improve his mental health and use his platform for positive influence.



Photo courtesy of Jason Persse, Wikipedia.