Kanye doesn’t have to be silent

Don’t shut him up

%28courtesy+of+the+Kanye+West+official+facebook+page%29
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Kanye doesn’t have to be silent

(courtesy of the Kanye West official facebook page)

(courtesy of the Kanye West official facebook page)

(courtesy of the Kanye West official facebook page)

(courtesy of the Kanye West official facebook page)

By Greg Fournier, Collegian columnist

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Earlier this month, Kanye West made a relatively bizarre appearance on Saturday Night Live. During his musical performance, he wore a “Make America Great Again” hat, a symbol of his allegiance to the current occupant of the White House, and ranted about his perception of left-wing bias in the news which he said made every issue seem “so one-sided.” He claimed that the cast members “bullied” him about wearing the hat and tried to get him to take it off before he went on stage. He then ended in a typical Kanye fashion, shouting, “I love me, too” in response to an audience member who showed appreciation for Kanye’s words.

Let’s face it: Kanye West is controversial. This CNN article offers a relatively comical list of all the head-scratching things he has done in the past, including his effort to derail Taylor Swift’s VMA acceptance speech in 2009 and his violent encounters with the paparazzi. However, the reaction to Kanye’s rant seems to be vastly overblown.

Perhaps the most visible celebrity reaction occurred during the SNL episode the following week, in which Pete Davidson, a cast member, discussed the Kanye appearance in no uncertain terms. Davidson claimed that this performance was one of “the most awkward things” he had seen in his time at SNL. Additionally, Davidson praised Kanye for his “musical genius” but, just as he would not want to hear “hot dog-eating genius” Joey Chestnut’s opinions on “things that aren’t hot dog-related,” Kanye should refrain from sharing his non-musical opinions.

Another reaction to Kanye’s rant featured CNN host Don Lemon’s guests accusing Kanye of promoting anti-intellectualism, saying that “Kanye West is what happened when Negros don’t read.” According to the guests, this was a reference to a Chris Rock standup comedy routine from the 1990s, but regardless, it was clear that the guests meant to be insulting toward Kanye. (It should also be noted that the guests who made this claim were African-American, so although this statement is egregious, it is not quite as bad as it would have been had it been a white person.)

Normally, these two reactions may not have been too far out of the ordinary. However, this came just eight months after Fox News anchor Laura Ingraham called out LeBron James for talking about politics and said that he should just “shut up and dribble.” This comment blew up; many considered it racist and inflammatory. Laura Ingraham, a white woman, effectively tried to silence LeBron James, a Black man. Athletes flocked to defend LeBron against supposed white supremacist language and antics, and ensured that athletes would not be silenced. Now, on the other hand, we have a white man, Davidson, saying that West, a Black man, should be silent regarding his political opinions.

The double standard that has been set here is almost impossible to ignore. You may try to defend Davidson or the SNL cast or Lemon by saying that James and West are not similar: LeBron happens to be more eloquent and comprehensible than Kanye when he speaks about politics. But despite their differences, there really isn’t much to differentiate between Ingraham attempting to silence James and Davidson attempting to do the same to West. The important difference is the ideology at hand. LeBron James has repeatedly spoken out against President Trump, while Kanye has spoken out in support of him. Indeed, Trump even invited Kanye to the White House last week, something he has not done for LeBron. This suggests that the outrage in response to Ingraham’s comment was really only incensed at her because she was clearly biased in favor of conservatism and, therefore, the response to what Davidson and others have said has been positive due to bias against conservatism.

This, of course, is not to say that West should be worshipped as a thought leader. He is obviously controversial and has made many gaffes before, as discussed earlier. I think we all have to take what celebrities say about politics with a grain of salt. Of course, everyone should have the right to speak about perceived injustices in the political system, but that does not mean that they are going to say the most intelligent, well-researched things about the subject as someone who studies politics for a living.

So, don’t shut up and dribble or even shut up and sing. Speak your mind; but don’t expect anyone to take you seriously.

Greg Fournier is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]