Webster’s defines a “mutt” as a “stupid or contemptible person.”
And perhaps Kanye is. Perhaps he is not a mental health patient or drug addict. Perhaps he is not suffering from the lingering effects of the horrific car accident he had in the early days of his career. Perhaps he isn’t exhibiting signs of trauma from the sudden, avoidable death of his beloved mother, Donda.
Perhaps he is just the opportunistic, narcissistic, contrarian only child asshole that so many people have painted him to be over all these years he has graced us pop culture lapping mortals with his problematic presence.
Perhaps he is contemptible enough to think that gaining an increased number of sales of his new album justifies putting his considerable cultural influence behind a man that has used the Oval Office as nothing more than his existential condom.
Perhaps he is stupid enough to think that his pseudo-philosophical anti-black bullshit isn’t just inverted white supremacy and hegemonic thinking – that there is something “original” about separating himself from “ordinary” black people and “conventional” black thought in order to somehow escape the racial hierarchy – to gain the higher social ranking that his fame and wealth would confer on him if he weren’t black and darker skinned at that.
I don’t know.
Or maybe he is just a demonstration of what happens when a black person pops way too much of this new metaphysical opioid that is a mixture of respectability politics, post-racialism, and histrionic fixation.
Let’s call it Fentan-ill.
Wikipedia defines “post-racial America” as a “theoretical environment in which the United States is free of racial preference, discrimination, and prejudice.”
Now, while I contend that this sort of environment can’t exist in America, even theoretically, I will concede that post-racial America exists as an ideal that black Americans have been striving to actualize since Emancipation.
But we haven’t succeeded. And if the historic election of President Barack Obama made us believe that we had arrived then the ahistoric election of Donald Trump should have cleared up any confusion on that matter.
Race relations in America haven’t improved since the 1800s. If race is a technology, as Afrofuturists posit, used to make race happen in our culture, then it has simply evolved and racism along with it.
This is an exhausting concept for black people. It means that despite all of the work we’ve done over the last 150+ years to prove our worthiness of equality and win it for ourselves, we still have work to do.
We are still subject to the exigencies and injustices, the violence and virulence of institutional racism and anti-black bigotry, even if we have taken the time and made the effort to educate ourselves, employ ourselves, enfranchise ourselves, and acculturate ourselves pretty much across the board.
And, in the face of Trump’s MAGA Movement, increasing domestic terror attacks by white nationalists, and a midterm election that is just as likely to strengthen the Republican Party as it is to strip the party of its power, I get how intimidating it is to know that we are in fact not living in post-racial America.
I get the allure of the idea that we can stop struggling to secure the rights and freedoms that are already ours if we just convince the white supremacists once and for all that we are not the life-sucking monsters that the billionaire and millionaire echelons of the white male patriarchy have strategically and consistently made us out to be.
And I think Kanye has become intoxicated by that idea, and, in typical Kanye fashion, taken it and run to that place inside his imagination where only his most ardent stans can or care to follow.
In the feverish rash of characteristically controversial tweets Kanye has posted over the last week, he seems to be trying to convince . . . somebody . . . that he is an independent thinker, and this should matter more than his blackness.
He refers rather contemptibly to the “mob,” which is presumably all of the other humans on Earth besides him, and then he says a bunch of inconsequential shit about how much he appreciates Donald Trump and other outliers of the black community like Candace Owens and Scott Adams before insisting that he (Kanye) will not let the “thought police” control him, by which I’m guessing he means impel him to say the sorts of angry and outraged things one would expect from a black man living in the current political landscape.
“I love when people have their own ideas,” he says in one tweet. “That’s free thought.”
This seems to be his aim ostensibly – to think entirely outside of . . . well . . . I guess all the boxes about . . . well . . . himself – which seems to be his permanent mental focal point.
Except he isn’t doing that. He isn’t thinking outside of the box. In fact, he hasn’t even lifted the lid off.
Kanye wants fame. He wants record sales. He wants to be pedestalized by his fans. He wants to be respected and admired by his artistic peers. He wants people to think he is amazing and accomplished.
And there is nothing more fundamentally and universally human than wanting that. That is acceptance. There is nothing that makes this desire unique. There is also nothing that makes it more acute than being black and fearing that because you are black you will never get it.
Perhaps Kanye thinks that by acting like a “different” sort of black man, he can finally gain that acceptance that eludes even the richest and most revered of black people on some level.
Well, this is not a new idea, either.
And it fits even more neatly into a historical pattern of thinking when Kanye aligns himself with someone like Candace Owens, a right-wing black woman that has literally claimed that Trump is the “savior” of America, which she subtitles the “last stand for western civilization.”
We can take this way of securing societal acceptance all the way back to Booker T. Washington, who, in his shrewd attempts to prevent white supremacists from destroying his beloved Tuskegee Institute, kept up a constant patter about black people in America not having it nearly as bad as they could or claimed to have it.
Black people have traditionally adopted anti-black ideals and beliefs, at least to some extent or on the surface, to make themselves seem safe for white consumption. Or more aptly for white interaction and interdependence.
So Kanye hasn’t distinguished himself at all. His approach to all of this isn’t even novel.
Self-hating black people have been tweeting mini love letters like his to prominent and powerful white people like Trump since the advent of Twitter. He may just be the most famous of these black people to do so. Lately.
So my verdict on all of this is pretty straightforward.
I empathize with Kanye. He obviously wants to change the stories circulating that he is in fact suffering from mental health issues.
He wants to restore the image of himself as a man with agency and his own vision for himself. He wants to sell records and differentiate himself again from his wife’s brand. He may even want to eclipse her fame and fortune. From a Gen X adherent of hip hop, those sort of hyper-masculine, compulsorily hetero, ableist, aspirational goals are actually quite normal. So much so that they border on boring.
I also empathize with the subtext of all of this attention seeking and publicity stunting.
The Trump news cycle does seem inescapable and impenetrable. His brand of leadership can make the typical American obsessive about identity politics, political correctness, and the culture wars. In order to turn all of us rubbernecking observers of his administration away from it for even just a few seconds, one might have to resort to something drastic. If slightly demented.
I won’t make the cheap joke that perhaps in his purportedly drug-induced state of mind, Kanye is living in post-racial America. I will only say that I feel him on wanting to.
It would be amazing, if it were real. But it isn’t. Racism is still a pervasive, punishing reality of life for black people in America. And no amount of “free thought” can get any of us outside of that fact. Only actual work that dismantles its institutional and interactional mechanisms can do that.
That is why I ultimately do not appreciate and will not rubber stamp Kanye’s endorsement of Trump, even if it isn’t sincere. Even if it is some ill-conceived piece of online performance art that he’s doing.
Trump is too dangerous, and his politics are too reprehensible, for anyone with Kanye’s level of influence, and particularly within the black community, to even pretend to back him.
I want Kanye to win. I’m rooting for everybody black, just like Issa Rae. Just like Cortney Lamar Charleston says in his awesome poem.
As Charleston writes, “Everybody Black is my hometown team . . . Everybody Black mad . . . I love seeing Everybody Black succeed . . . Everybody Black is good peoples . . . Everybody Black been through some things.”
But I don’t believe that excuses Everybody Black from being thoughtful, careful, responsible, and accountable for their words and actions.
Kanye has had some hard shit happen to him. But that doesn’t mean he has the right to have all this wrong-headed mess going on Twitter. And he either needs to clean it up or cut it out.
He doesn’t have to be politically correct or political at all, but if he’s going to claim to be free thinking, then perhaps he can do something that goes against prevailing stereotypes, like speak candidly and from a vulnerable place about his experiences with whatever it is that has been plaguing him these last few years.
Perhaps he can peel back the persona of the megalomaniacal messianic boy genius and show some real realness.
That’s what the culture needs right now.