Kanye West is so gifted that he is insane. He has said that he wants to run for president and he just might be a black Donald Trump in the making: narcissistic, occasionally clever, obviously gifted but ultimately self destructive. Kanye said he did not vote in the last election but had he done so, Trump would have been his candidate. At a concert this past Saturday he compared himself to Trump and went on to give post-election analysis on why Hillary Clinton lost. His analysis validated the hurt feelings of the “white working-class,” who were privileged enough to endorse a blatant racist for president. Crazy. But Kanye did actually say one thing of value. In his rant he said that black people should “stop focusing on racism” and “being distracted on that.” Kanye is slightly insane but on this point he is right. Focusing on racism has never done anything to further Black Power–self determination for black people and the ability to define ourselves. I don’t want Kanye as my president but for that one point he made, he might get my support for V.P.
What Kanye said is not crazy. He in fact echoed the great Toni Morrison when she said that racism is just one big distraction that “keeps you from doing your work.” For black people, that work is Black Power. That work is to make sure our children will not live in a world where they must convince white power structures that their lives matter. When Kanye said, “This world is racist, ok?” he was acknowledging the pain and disparities black people face. His argument isn’t that of an Uncle Tom who pretends racism does not exist. Rather, just as Toni Morrison said years ago (read her entire thought here), when we continually engage and try to appeal to racists we lose precious time and energy that should be put to organizing our dollars and political strength to achieve Black Power. If you post about racism or try to convince someone to not be a racist you will not be one dollar richer. If you put that energy into starting a company and organizing the community to support it, however, you’d make a few dollars and create some jobs. Your choice.
Is Kanye West slightly nuts? Sure, genius always has another side. Further, I personally suspect that the loss of his mother continues to impact him negatively. Even so, his genius does occasionally show and when he told black people to stop focusing on racism, he was on. What he left out, however, were the marching orders. To say, “stop focusing on racism,” without telling people what to focus on, is slightly dangerous and precisely what racists would like us to do. I don’t believe that was Kanye’s intention. He’s just a bit….scattered, these days. The marching orders are every single moment when confronted or angered by racism, we turn our anger and energy into action toward Black Power. The world is a very racist place and most likely will always be. Trump’s election reminded us of that. Success is hard enough to achieve in this world and racism certainly doesn’t help when pursuing it. Even so, the pursuit of Black Power–self determination and the ability to define ourselves as black people–requires us to see and acknowledge racism but give zero energy to it.
Each and every ounce of energy we have must be devoted to building black institutions–banks, businesses, schools, political and advocacy organizations–and sustaining them. Our every thought must be that. Shouting “racism” won’t build the black institutions that will make the next generation better off. Proving that racism exists to people who don’t actually care about black people won’t create black wealth. Pursuing Black Power means we acknowledge all the racism and bullshit this world contains and allow it to fuel us in building ourselves and our community. Kanye, in his own way, was trying to tell us that. Do I actually want Kanye as a Vice President or to hold any public office? Hell no. The man did have a point though.