Why We Must Protect and Defend Kanye West at All Costs
It’s not just about Kanye, Kanye the artistic genius, Kanye the enigma, Kanye the billionaire, Kanye the presidential candidate, anymore. Anyone who believes that Black Lives Matter has two very vested interests in protecting Kanye and it isn’t about shutting him up on his illogical rants about enslavement or for his siding with Trump because of the indirect harm they cause us. We have to protect Kanye, because in protecting Kanye, we protect Black life. We protect Black viability for public office, and we protect Black rights to suffer from mental illness, like bipolar disorder, which his wife has acknowledged he has, and to get treatment and help when we need it.
In all these things, Kanye West deserves love, protection and help. Not because Kanye is special, but because Kanye is a person deserving inherently of love, protection, and help because he is a member of the human race.
But, we, the public, have to stop talking about Kanye the way we have been. We have to stop calling him a joke and a narcissist and incompetent even if we believe all these things to be true. Right now, it seems that his voice is being amplified in part to mock and ridicule Black life and to undermine the concept of capable Black leadership and we can’t stand for it.
Society is pushing an unwell Kanye into the limelight instead of the many, many viable young Black leaders who could make real and substantial changes for the betterment of our society. When we make memes about his presidential bid as if it were a real prospect and not the product of mania, we harm the chances of other Black politicians. Consider the next time you see something about Kanye what you last read or heard about Stacey Abrams or any other young, Black person with political ambition and a concrete platform.
Remember the way optics work. The next time a Black candidate gets national attention, there will be this probably subconscious thought lingering about the ridiculousness of Kanye and it won’t be a big leap from there. Don’t believe me? Tell me you can see a young Black politician and not think of Obama.
Stop sharing about Kanye to mock and degrade him. When you do this you mock and degrade Black fitness for public office. Kanye isn’t a real candidate. Kanye is a spectacle. None of that means he isn’t deserving of LPH. So, stop sharing unless you are offering him thoughts and prayers. Because regardless of everything he has said and done, Kanye is at the most basic level a spectacularized human being deserving of those things.
On another level, we must push the conversation about mental illness in the Black community to the forefront in any and every conversation about what Kanye said or did not say. We must do this firstly to undermine the clearly illogical narrative that an unwell Kanye has promoted about Black lives, misogyny, and about enslavement to the larger community. While we condemn the messages, to the extent that anyone believes him, we have to make it clear that we believe this self-deprecating ranting and raving to be the product of an unwell mind so if anyone agrees with him about enslavement or Black America, they have sided with that illness and the power it has over this brilliant, but troubled man.
We must also do this to protect Kanye, and every unwell Black person, and every person with mental illness from undue persecution or accountability for things they say when they are in the throes of mental illness.
We must do this to have a larger and longer conversation about how living in a society that has anti-blackness woven in to its fabric impacts Black thinking and wellness on a multitude of levels. When a mentally ill person speaks coherently in the voice of the oppressor, we know that the hegemony is functioning. Kanye did not invent any of the messages he is tweeting out or promoting at events. Kanye, like so many of us, internalized them. Kanye is a mirror of the messages society has thrust upon us and him about Black life, and his mental illness likely leaves him incapable of processing and rejecting those messages in the same way a well mind might.
If Black Lives Matter, we must stand firm in the statement that Black people have mental illness too, and that seeking help is brave and positive, and that Kanye’s life matters and is deserving of protection. When we protect Kanye, we protect every other Black person suffering from mental illness, we make it ok to talk about it and we normalize treatment. When we talk about Black people with mental illness, we must reflect on the many pre-existing forms of oppression to which mental illness may be added. We must acknowledge the particularly precarious and vulnerable position of Black people with mental illness. In so doing, we lay the foundation to give the love, protection, and help of which we are all deserving.