25 thoughts on “I am not Black I am Kanye”

  1. I absolutely agree with the point that Kanye is an opportunist who does things for profit (or attention) rather than doing it from his heart, and it was incredibly obvious when you see him praising Trump, running for president for publicity, and saying non-sense like “slavery was a choice.” With that being said, I really feel that Coates over-glorified Kanye in this piece. Even though Kanye achieved great success with his music and his brand, it doesn’t reflect him as a person, or even god.

    MJ on the other hand is understandable, he was a hot (and I mean HOT) shot during his time. One thing I feel sorry for MJ is because he didn’t realize one thing (not about him and kids). That thing is the fact that no matter the color if someone is good enough, people will bend over to the person. (MJ didn’t have to paint himself white for people to recognize him, he’s that good that people can’t say that they hate him because he’s black.).

    1. Thank you! you mention that in passing, but it’s so important that in the American culture attention and profit are almost synonymous. what the likes of Kanye and Kardashian understand is that attention, be it for all the wrong reasons, help you sell more stuff and make more money, which many of us, who believe in some moral principles, cannot fathom.

    2. I like the point that you made, “MJ didn’t have to paint himself white for people to recognize him.” I think Michael didn’t understand this though. At the height of his career in the 80s early 90s, he was the biggest star in the world basically, recognizable everywhere, but to certain people, he was still black. I was a kid then and my father had vitiligo at the same time Michael Jackson was turning white. It was rumored (ha like before our social media days) that MJ had vitiligo as well, but I didn’t believe for a second because I had seen how it is a spotty disease first hand by my father. Whether or not he actually had it, he I was watching the man that was on top of the world succumb to his insecurities.

  2. I agree with this notion that celebrities in today’s day and age seem much more human-like because there is so much more information put out about them. This runs true especially for someone like Kanye West as he has been at the core of many public controversies. For instance, the VMA awards moment in which Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech to assert that Beyoncé should have won. That instance became a viral sensation and is still used as a comedic meme today. Moreover, the public also learned about the backlash of that moment such as, which other artists had something to say to Kanye at the awards and Taylor’s reaction when she cried. Overall, there is less and less privacy in the day and age of social media. Similarly, Kanye West also has spoken publicly about his support for Donald Trump and even, his own potential bid for president. However, these thoughts often occur over Twitter and are indicative of the term “Twitter Fingers” which means that individuals believe that their tweets are meant to convey something important when in reality, they do not. There’s another common phrase, “Trigger Fingers Turn To Twitter Fingers”, which suggests that many celebrities often talk a good talk on social media platforms and relay their personal business and feuds from the comfort of behind a screen. Obviously, this was not the case in the era of Michael Jackson when feuds between artists often resulted in diss tracks and the materialization of their thoughts into a form of art. To seriously think that Kanye West, who has tweeted “I hate when I’m on a flight and I wake up with a water bottle next to me like oh great now I gotta be responsible for this water bottle” amongst many other simply unnecessary tweets wants to make a serious bid to become the president of the United States? This spread of information especially by celebrities who maintain a large fan following can easily become detrimental. This runs especially true when many fans of rap artists such as Kanye are young and impressionable. Thus, when Kanye West, a black man from humble means, states that “slavery was a choice” on live radio, not only is that the spread of misinformation but it is a largely disrespectful blow to the black community. I understand that such tactics are a means of remaining “relevant” and causing a stir just to get attention. However, West has consistently supported conservative activists, one of whom compared BLM protesters to “a bunch of whiny toddlers, pretending to be oppressed for attention”. Celebrities enjoy a platform in which they can influence the minds of millions, there’s a reason brand names pay millions for celebrity endorsements. Kanye West publicly asserting that such people are “free thinkers” and the like, only stands to regress a movement for equality and exemplifies the disunity within the black community. In every sense, Kanye West is turning against his own people and advocates for his black follower-base to idealize distancing themselves from their blackness. This is apparent in his association with “Blexit” which is a movement to convince the black community to abandon the Democratic Party. His involvement in politics is ever so harmful because he is in a position in which he can truly convince people that bigotry, misogyny, racism and xenophobia are all selling points.

    1. I often wonder when he goes off the rails like with his “slavery is a choice” stuff or his running for President (yes a PR stunt, yes a ploy to take the Black vote away from Biden so his “buddy” the Orange Idiot can win) whether that’s because he’s gone off his meds, an unstable genius he is, for when he said in 2005 “George Bush doesnt care about Black people” on that Katrina Fundraiser, that to me, is his authentic Black self.

      1. Thank you! I do believe the ‘Kardashian strategy’ is still the best explanation, which is hard to fathom for those of us still taking morality seriously. they just don’t have that. they know that in America visibility equals wealth and power (Trump being the prime example), and it doesn’t matter if it comes for all the wrong reasons. so they just do whatever it takes to make their ways into the headlines. the problem is the society that pays attention to them. if the society as a whole ignored them for a year they’d all disappear from the public eye.

    2. thank you! I learned a lot from your comment. these terms made by ‘finger’ are so interesting!
      the more fundamental problem here is the celebrity culture as a whole, the fact that a bunch of people who’re utterly ignorant and many of them quite sinister can garner so much attention. I think it speaks to the state of public education, and the way people define their priorities. celebrities are like parasites on the social body, and if we just flick them away they will die on their own in no time. But we’ve gone too far in the path of serving them.

  3. I find it interesting that you mention Kanye pivoting and using the “Kardashian strategy” as explanation for his support for Trump. I never thought of it as an attention grab, more of as him being out of touch, but it makes sense when you consider the rise in fame he has enjoyed again the last few years. I like the phrase you used in that he “made himself the exception that would negate the rule” because I find it very true in many of his interactions with and regarding Trump. I also feel like that phrase can be used to fit in with Coates’ argument towards leadership in the black community in that Kanye doesn’t consider who he takes down the road with him, but if he did, he could use his social clout to be a leader within the black community.

    1. Thank you! I do think that this is the best explanation. and I learned it from my students over years, I am too old, too accustomed to the pre-internet reality, to realize it on my own!

  4. What’s interesting about this reading and the posts is that it will be difficult to parse between our opinions on Kanye and the actual expression of Coates as a cultural and political critic and as a writer. I’m such a fan of Coates, of his memoir and of his work of fiction, The Water Dancer, just the way he, as you say, “weaves different modes of narrative,” the way he couples and piles up stanzas , that read like lyrics, like poetry but are in fact, this slow burn of practical prose, it’s just wonderful.

    As I think about Toni Morrison too, the Bluest of Eye, that conflicted aspiration to whiteness, that Coates touches upon here, in particular with Michael Jackson, that connection is profound, and it’s a theme that’s popped up in the writings we’ve read in these short five weeks.

  5. Professor you could not choose better way to wrap up this course. When beginning the summer semester, I had no idea who Ta-Nehisi Coates was. My professor for Citizenship and Public Affair assigned this book, and I was completely blown away. The way the he wrote the book as a letter to his son gives strong tonality to the subject. The genuine tone that he uses to describe the struggle of the black community hits the reader thoroughly, and it made me ponder many things that I did not understand before.
    Going back to the article, I agree with Tingran’s point. Coates overrated Kanye West by comparing him to a legend of the caliber of Michael Jackson. West is definitely a prominent figure renowned worldwide, and if he was really interested in politics and in contributing to the well-being of our society, he could have chosen another politician to endorse. I understand Coates being disappointed by his behavior, he thought that West would stand by him and not the enemy’s side. Perhaps, West could have used his popularity to fight for equal justice instead of just doing in for attention
    In my opinion, Kanye West is just a complete idiot.

    1. Thank you! I think Coates still unconsciously attached to that pre-internet world, and there’s a certain reluctance in the piece for understanding how fundamentally things have changed, and how quickly this has happened. Kanye is the product of this new world, and he is willingly realizing its dangerous potential to a disturbing degree

  6. I definitely agree that Kanye is an opportunist but almost all celebrity personalities are and need to be in order to maintain their fame. I don’t understand why so many people are so angry about Kanye saying he will run for president when he has yet to take any steps to register a campaign. I think he posted that just for some attention, I’ve heard his name more this past few days than in the past few months. Not to mention, he did just release a new single on June 30th. Everything in the celebrity world is heavily calculated, celebrities have huge skilled PR teams carefully tracking every move, comment, and media post.

    I do agree that Kanye West is a modern-day Michael Jackson. His influence isn’t matched by any other modern musician. Not only is he the most influential artist in music but he also is married to the most famous woman in the world who is also considered a beauty icon of the modern age. A relationship that is perfectly set up to feed each other’s careers and personas. In addition, his influence spans over much more than the world of music, his fashion and sneaker lines are wildly successful and sell out in seconds. Yeezy sneakers can be seen on every NYC street corner but you don’t really see anyone wearing a thriller jacket except for on Halloween.

    I really liked Coates’ writing I’m definitely going to look at Between The World And Me.

    1. Thank you! I do agree about your first point, that it’s a symptom of social problem that someone like him can command so much attention by spreading utter nonsense.
      I have never really followed him as a cultural figure so I’m just curious: is he really comparable to MJ? MJ stood way above his peers, head and shoulder above other pop stars. but in the case of Kanye, he is contemporary of Jay z and Beyonce and Drake and T Swift etc. I am not sure if the comparison holds.

  7. Celebrity culture and worship has taken a toxic turn for the worst. It seems it gets worst every year. We have gone from the perfection projected by early Michael Jackson, to the idolizing of polarizing ideas and thoughts from uber-rich celebs who have long updated their definition of every-day life. You may like their latest movies, their quirky interviews or culture setting music. They may seem humble, even speak words that resonate directly to the souls of their fans – but they are not like us. They’ve long traded humility for riches, public opinion (normally residing within morality) for controversial opinion and the idea of a “greater good” for merely their good.

    Coates essay, aptly titled “I’m Not Black, I’m Kanye”, hints at an important message about self-identity. Kanye’s transcended celebrity and become a verb synonymous with “free-thinker, radical, genius”. He is no longer the black kid from Chicago’s South Side, much like Obama is no longer just the black senator from Illinois. There is a positive message here, where who you are or where you from doesn’t have the define you. But to what expense?

  8. I’ve always found Kanye Wesy quite dangerous. He although speaks with much ignorance still manages now an almost billion dollar empire. He now no longer supports Trump but now he’s also putting down Biden and vowing to win the presidency. There has been a lot of fear amongst people that are anti-Trump due to this. People of some influence and so on now go out of there way to stress on social media not to vote for Kanye West even as a joke, in order to not let the liberal vote split and put the Democratic Party at a disadvantage. He’s now all over the news after declaring he will now run for the presidency as well. Considering that Biden himself is not very popular himself, considering the saying going around amongst democrats “settle for Biden” Kanye is knowingly corrupting an already messy presidential race. Although it should be clear that this man is quite similar to Trump in his way of demanding attention towards himself considering what he’s done, people still underestimate his influence and that his ignorance is not funny it should be taken seriously.

    1. Thank you! it’s all true. to be honest I am not sure if he is even aware of the political impact of his move the way you’re articulating it. that’s his newest stunt to push himself back into the headlines, and unfortunately the media is giving him what he wants.

  9. Coates seems to feel a profound sense of loss, not only over West’s comments themselves but also how they reflect his growing distance from black America and the very communities that enabled his rise. Coates notes that West is not alone in this shift. It’s a pattern, he says, that has long existed among some black celebrities, who gain fame only to later try to distance themselves from blackness. Coates focuses on two examples in his essay, West and Michael Jackson, who radically altered his appearance, “erasing himself so that we would forget that he had once been Africa beautiful and Africa brown,” as Coates puts it.

  10. Kanye’s relationship with Trump and his announcement as president became cynical and shocked most audiences. Celebrities have huge social influence. Many figures also “popularly” announced their participation in the US presidential election on social networking sites. I think because Hip-hop culture and black music have a great influence on Americans.
    I do agree Professor use the word “visible” to describe the behavior these celebrities have done. Even though they themselves just want make exception and public opinion, make trending, that’s acceptable now. Coats use Michael Jackson and Kanye West as representatives to prove the mutual influence between celebrities and politics. They are no longer god and untouched but still has sort of influence. From the history, we can see there’s link between them. For example, Elvis and 37th President Nixon of the United States, George Harrison and Gerald Ford, 38th President of the United States. Singers convey their political positions through social network posts, song lyrics, and various forms, and they also become part of the personality output.

  11. I’m not too sure if Kanye is exactly like Michael Jackson, but I do believe they both share similarities when it comes to the media attention. They both have faced a big amount of pressure from the media/fans as well, which ultimately led to them acting out and becoming someone different then who they were before the fame. It’s especially evident when you have an entire community looking up to you, that kind of pressure can make a person change drastically.

  12. The Us media generally sees Kanye’s move as a marketing ploy in the age of social media, and that makes sense. But I like to assume that Kanye is serious about winning the presidential election. After all, electing a President is a very, very important and serious matter in a country. If Kanye was just trying to get more attention from the public, it would be inappropriate. So I seriously wonder what kind of leader Kanye Would be if he did win the presidential election (he has a huge fan base, after all). It’s hard to imagine that Kanye, who is black, ever made a statement that purported to absolve white Americans of enslaving blacks. Can not help worrying about the progress of racial equality.

    1. Thank you! it was in the news that he hasn’t taken a single step in that direction. no campaign, no advisors, no fundraising, nothing. it doesn’t look like he’s serious about it in any form or fashion.

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