In recent days, rapper Kanye West has repeatedly proclaimed his support for Donald Trump, and the black community has been left to wonder why.
Trump, after all, was the candidate endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan and the developer twice sued by the Justice Department for racial discrimination in his family’s real estate business. Trump was the reality star whose political career was built on voicing the false claim that America’s first black president was born in Kenya. Trump was the man who said anti-racism protesters shared the blame when neo-Nazis and Klansmen incited violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Black America has seen Trump’s act, and just as the vast majority of us rejected Trump in the voting booth, Gallup poll numbers indicate that we continue to reject Trump now. Yet there is Kanye West, wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, telling us that he and Trump are brothers, and calling us a mob that can’t make him dislike Trump. Like many in my community, I have watched while wondering what happened to the Kanye West who saw black victims abandoned after Hurricane Katrina, and proclaimed, “George Bush does not care about black people.”
That Kanye West is gone, replaced by a man whose love for Donald Trump can be traced to the most cynical public relations ploy I’ve seen in many years.
It seems Kanye West is promoting a new track.
“Ye vs. The People” features West debating “T.I.”, the Grammy-winning rapper a strident critic of police brutality and Donald Trump.
West’s opening line in the track says, “I know Obama was Heaven sent, but ever since Trump won, it proved that I could be president.”
I wish West was wrong in assessing his chances at the presidency, but he’s not, and that’s scary. Because West and Trump have more in common than we think.
Both men are self-proclaimed geniuses. Both men’s behavior often borders on the ridiculous. Both men are seemingly caught in a cycle of narcissism. And both men use controversy to manipulate the news cycle.
All those things made political hay for Donald Trump. Now Kanye thinks Trump’s methods can work for him, too — right down to the tweeting. Perhaps that why he sent out the following missive.
“You don’t have to agree with Trump,” West wrote in a tweet last week. “But the mob can’t make me not love him. We are both dragon energy. He is my brother. I love everyone. I don’t agree with everything anyone does. That’s what makes us individuals. And we have the right to independent thought.”
Later, West tweeted a picture of himself wearing one of Trump’s signature “Make America Great Again” hats. In response, Trump tweeted that, “Kanye West has performed a great service to the black community. Big things are happening and eyes are being opened for the first time in decades – legacy stuff.”
In my view, Donald Trump is the last guy who gets to tell black America who’s doing a service to our community, because Trump’s record in real estate, in politics and in life is filled with actions that any reasonable person would consider as disservices to the black community.
As for Kanye’s legacy, I believe he’s gone from the genius of his debut studio album, “The College Dropout,” to the infamy that can only be gained when one is labeled a sellout.
And in my opinion, Kanye West is a sellout.
He’s a sellout politically. Not because he’s decided to support Donald Trump, but because he has inserted himself into the political fray when, by his own admission, he did not even bother to vote in the last presidential election.
He’s a sellout culturally, because his disengagement from the voting process is an example that his fans might follow.
He’s a sellout economically, because his fake political engagement courts controversy in a cynical ploy to extract finances from the very community he has abandoned.
Even so, it’s not to late for Kanye. People change, and he can still someday become the paragon of black thought that he thinks he is. But until that transformation takes place, I can only pray that Kanye West’s flirtation with the politics of Trump won’t do us irreparable harm.
You can hear Solomon Jones weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon on Praise 107.9 FM