What Kanye West Has in Common With Susan Collins

Yesterday Kanye pulled his struggle bus into D.C. for a stop at the White House where he proceeded to deliver a cringeworthy soliloquy where he asked Donald Trump to love him like the daddy he wished he had in exchange for absolute fealty and an iPlane. The bizarre moment was broadcast live, sometimes with a split screen of communities wiped out by Hurricane Michael because America.  Kanye’s rant was so full of crazy soundbites it broke the internet like Kim K’s….nevermind. Clickbait?  For sure.  But don’t dismiss Kanye’s diatribe as meaningless.  Kanye, clearly, is struggling with his recent bipolar diagnosis, but what Kanye is saying is actually a window into how the elite think as they play human chess with ideas, disconnected from the material effect of oppressive ideologies on you or me.


Kanye’s recent epiphanies about the black community aren’t crazy original, or even just plain crazy–they’re conservative talking points, Fox News’s daily mainline of ignorant and ahistorical bullshit regarding black people and the black community.  Its the elite, not the Illuminati, that fertilized Kanye’s mind with fantasies of black people living high off the welfare hog.  So before you cancel Kanye (wait till the end of the post) and erase all that he said, I suggest you take a listen to it, and a lesson from it.  Everyone is lining up to condemn Kanye (valid) but Kanye is just cutting samples from the ideas that circulate among the wealthy and white–the people he is around every day.

If you can’t stomach–or follow–the long winding tale of the tape, here are some of the highlights of Kanye’s lowlights: racism is a liberal invention to foster victim mentality in black people–effective in Kanye’s word because “we are an emotional people”; blacks are overly reliant on welfare; black on black crime is the real problem of the black community; some stuff about the 13th amendment that even I couldn’t make sense of. Painting black people as poor, violent, and not totally deserving or able to be free is a page out of the Willie Lynch playbook.

Kanye also had a lot to say about the captains of industry and their mythic position as the heroes of America.  He painted Trump as a lonely warrior on a Joseph Campbell-esque quest to make America great again.  These are not the random musings of an outlier, this is the sacred text of America’s holy trinity of capitalism, white supremacy and masculinity.


What we’re hearing from Kanye is raw uncut American hegemony. Think of hegemony as the net of ideas that produces and normalizes the social, political, economic and cultural relationships and processes that make up the world we live in.  In order for any culture to function, we have to have a shared understanding of what is happening, but what if someone decided to write the world in their own favor? One way that people in power remain in power is they set up the rules of the game for the rest of us–and ensure that they conserve the best resources for themselves. They hide the strings of the puppetry behind stories, myths ideas, and beliefs that normalize the structures we have as the only way that things could or should be.  In a word, hegemony is the process that determines “just the way it is”.


But it’s not just the way it is.  Science tells us every day of the expanding boundaries of our universe, a million stars with their own worlds.  Developing nations around the world develop in ways different than the colonization process that sprouted our own country. In a world where Kanye West and Donald Trump are hugging over the Resolute desk in the Oval Office, we must concede that anything is possible.  Hegemony is the factory where our current imbalanced and unsustainable systems to keep mashing up young black and brown men in the prison system, and where the response to #MeToo is ‘so what’ and where American dream is deserved only by the wealthy and not by the millions of Americans who generate that wealth with sweat and blood and time and life energy.

We don’t have to want that anymore.  It is right and proper to reject people who parrot the tales of a dying empire built by slaves on land stolen from Native Americans and nurtured by women and wave after wave of immigrants.  It’s cool to cancel Kanye (ready..now!).  While we’re at it, let’s vote out Susan Collins who would rather vote for her senate majority masters than stand up and vote for her sisters.  Like Kanye, she allowed her desire to align herself with power to be more important than standing in solidarity and unity with women across the country demanding justice free from patriarchy.


Kanye’s comments are mostly shocking because he is black, and not just black but George-Bush-doesn’t-care-about-black-people. We expect that all people of color are woke enough to know when their own interests are being trampled but that’s not true.  Members of oppressed groups drink the same hegemonic kool-aid that everyone else does and have to do the work to free their mind from the ideas that bind them.  Susan Collins is also speaking kool-aidese, her hour-long speech echoing of the statements of her male counterparts.  Shocking because she is a woman. But both of them are seeking to be in close proximity to power, and it is power, not identity that drives their madness choices.


When we get angry at the paper tigers or dismiss them as irrelevant outliers we forget it is the hegemonic ideology they are spouting that is the real villain.  Kanye is symptomatic of an elite celebrity class living disconnected from history and reality even as they cast the net for the rest of us. In addition to auditioning with Trump to be the mouthpiece of ‘Murica, Kanye is also a person who is struggling to accept a diagnosis, who needs the time and space to learn how to take care of himself.  He doesn’t need cameras, he needs care.  The kindest thing you can do for him is cancel him.

Anyone can ring the bell of hegemony–whatever your race or gender, you can parrot the ideas of a culture that oppresses people who look like you.  But the reverse is also true: anyone can join the resistance and seek new ideas to build a better more perfect union. You can say no to the Davey Crockett version of Trump.  You can tell people that it’s not just Kanye or Susan Collins, but the culture that they represent, the culture of power, and money, white supremacy and toxic masculinity, built on the backs of everyone that’s not them that creates these deplorable ideas. You can work with us to dismantle that castle in the sky, brick by brick.  Call out every person who stands up for oppression.  Vote them out. Stop buying their shit. Stop covering their antics. Don’t be their supporters. quit being their friend. Unfollow, block, delete. And of course, stay woke.

The Sisterhood of The Unraveling Rants

This weekend saw plenty of black girl anger on display from Serena’s throw down on the court to Cardi B’s blow up at Nikki Minaj during fashion week.  Seems like everywhere you turn a black woman is getting kicked out or called out for being angry. Before you start with some respectability politics a-la-well-calm-down, remember Black women are often stereotyped as out of control, but with a world on fire, acting nice is a privilege they can ill afford.  I’m not saying you should start ripping off wigs but beyond soundbites and stereotypes, anger has a place in every black girl’s arsenal. 

Serena Williams’ journey to capture her 24th Grand Slam title stopped short when she received a game violation for verbal abuse, effectively ceding the match to first time Grand Slam winner Naomi Osaka.  The high drama played out on the court with Williams accusing a judge of sexism for issuing a rarely-called penalty for coaching.  Unlike her brooding and unrepentant male counterparts who made screaming at refs their brand, she was penalized for her verbal outburst, costing her any remaining focus she had and the game. 

She complained bitterly that the rules were being applied differently for her versus her male counterparts–textbook sexism–and has been supported by many of her peers from Chris Everett, covering the Open as it happened to tennis and sexism expert Billie Jean King.

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Despite having a point about sexism in tennis, Williams lost the match and of course faced the usual hateful representation as an angry ape/child. Oh, and she was fined for her outburst about unfair treatment of women–she’ll pay $17,000.  Also textbook sexism

DmjIAJSV4AEJHku.jpgAcross town in a less athletic display of rage, Cardi B threw a shoe at Nikki Minaj in a scuffle best described as rap beef with great dresses.  In a scene right out of Love and Hip Hop, Cardi B pulled up on Minaj at the Harper’s Bazaar Icons party at New York Fashion Week.  The fight garnered lots of buzz throughout the weekend with bloggers turning history professors as they run down the back and forth between the self-proclaimed Queen of rap and the newcomer for the throne. 

But it wasn’t an episode of reality TV–it was two women who have more in common with each other than they have with many of the other party goers.  Both are entrepreneurs doing their best to ride the wave of celebrity before time and the next big starlet leaves them on the shore.   While their public beef will help drive records sales and blog hits this week, this is just another chapter in the ho-hum tale of ghetto girls acting badly.  Their out-of-control anger over some she-tweet-she-said is exactly what is expected out of both stars and out of angry black women in general.  This didn’t happen backstage at a Migos show–this was a show they put on for the international fashion crowd-tres boughetto. What ever happened to go high, ladies?

Before we chalk up this weekend to the same ole angry black women story we always hear, let’s not.  When we talk about how angry black women are, we ignore that black women, in reality, are not angrier than their white counterparts.  What we are repeating is an old stereotype that was used to justify oppressive practices to keep black women in check. Black women do–and have a right to–respond to attacks on their community and character with anger.  But the conflation of their temporary mood and their permanent color is classic racism, providing an easy excuse to invalidate any given black woman’s righteous anger as just a character flaw of the race.


In fact, recent studies show that white people are more likely to describe themselves as angry than members of other racial groups. The poll should come as no surprise: everywhere we look we see internet videos of white women going off at Starbucks, on the street, at Michael’s–and let’s face it, if crafting makes you angry you really need help.  But we don’t call them angry white women–we refer to them as Barbeque Becky, or the lady freaking out at Michaels, but their whiteness is not a key descriptor in their internet moniker like it is for Serena.  Go google angry white women, and then angry black woman–what difference do you notice in the results?

It’s not just the women who are mad as hell–there was no shortage of male violence competing for airtime this weekend–from real stories of shootings, rape, and murder to hours of news with men yelling at each other in silk suits or a day reserved for men running full speed at each other and knocking each other’s memories out of their heads on the football field. Male aggression is nothing less than the great American pass time. The consequence for men who act aggressively is winning.  They are rewarded on the field, in the workplace, and in the White House for acting aggressively, threatening and pushing, dominating and snarling.

We are a sharply competitive nation who prizes the flash of sharp teeth and the rule of the bone.   To give up your anger is to put down one of the most powerful tools in American culture, and to silence your own voice in the face of oppression.   Still, public displays of anger by black women have little benefit for them beyond being weekend clickbait and conversely carry the consequences of hundreds of years of history.  What’s a black woman to do?


Anger is a valid and valuable human emotion.  Like any weapon, you have to be careful with it: using it to try to right the wrongs of the world is a solid move, even if you don’t always land you blow.  But using your anger to slide into a petty feud best left in subtweets is like bringing a knife to a fist fight.

Screen-Shot-2018-09-08-at-11.49.05-AM.pngUnlike Cardi B, never, never let them see you sweat over the next b.  Cardi B has been riding a wave of love for her plucky weird vibe from bump reveals to Met Gala Virgin Mary glam.  Being something other than a wild rapper is what’s getting her invited everywhere.  Don’t lose your seat at the table fighting over scraps.  There’s no black girl magic in playing out the same tired trope of hood chicks who don’t know how to act.  Best to keep your knives virtual and your bag–and your plus 1–secure.

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But anger has a place and black women have the right to display anger, to call people out with their anger, to wield their anger like everyone else in America.  We know that sexism is unlikely to disappear with a whispered “excuse me, please.” Like Serena, don’t let them talk you down when you are busy pointing out systemic inequality.  Serena may have lost the Grand Slam but she proved herself a superhero in a tutu scoring again in a match against sexism.  She kept her anger directed at a system that wasn’t treating her fair. Instead of attacking her young opponent she lifted up her sister with grace and love, despite her being all the way in her feelings.   She showed us rage done right: a new play that has room both for fierce competition and for grace and respect for the winners.


When Losers Win

Remember when we were going to win so much that we were going to get sick of winning?  Still waiting. Speaking of losers, Sean Spicer made an appearance at the Emmy awards, playing his ol’ lying self.  He reprised his role as the liar of the liar in chief for a bit with Emmy host Stephen Colbert. We are not amused, Spicey.


Yeah, Colbert has made his transition to host of Late Night a success by railing nightly against the lunacy of Trump’s Tenure.  Sure, Melissa McCarthy has delighted audiences with her role as Sean Spicer on SNL. Of course, Alec Baldwin earned an Emmy for his portrayal of Trump.  But should we be laughing at Sean Spicer?  He wasn’t playing when he stood up and told the American public lie after lie, cementing an expectation that we would not hear the truth from Trump as early as inauguration day.

But white guys winning while being losers is not a new TV trope.  We have had a steady stream of TV characters and real-life media personalities that have cashed in on being total douches: Walter White, Don Draper, Frank Underwood and also Sherriff Joe Arpaio, Bernie Madoff, Donald Trump.  In fact, from Ironman to Breitbart the media is full of white men behaving badly and being rewarded for it.

Laughing at Spicey only legitimizes our longest running trope: bad white guys who win. Positive stereotypes about whites are as old and as prevalent as negative stereotypes about blacks.  Because whiteness is often just represented as “normal,” the stereotypes about white men often go unnoticed.  This means that there is little chance for us to really analyze how often the innocuous-looking suited-white man is lying cheating and killing the country without facing complaints or consequences.

Spicer made an appearance at the Emmys on a night filled with black excellence and powerful women.  In fact, the night really underscored the reality that diversity wasn’t just a nice add-on, but it made for damn good TV.  The awards represented people of color and women crushing it not only in front of the camera but behind the camera, and in the writing room.   While seeing diverse actors win is certainly important, seeing so many faces of color winning for directing and writing holds even greater promise.

Winning an Emmy isn’t just a chance to shout out your moms, it’s also a career credit that opens future doors.  These winners create shows, opening up opportunities for new directors, writers, cast, and crew. Hopefully, the recent Oscar and Emmy accolades help grow opportunities for a diverse crop of winners to hold the power behind the scenes, yielding fresh voices and perspectives shows like Insecure and Atlanta have.


And while women and people of color are working their tails off to get new perspectives on air, Sean Spicer Segways into celebrity on the strength of his lies.  Bad white guys get a pass, get a laugh, and get a pat on the back on their way to a new career as they burn down the world. It’s not funny. It’s not new.  It is the same old trope that is at the very heart of reproducing white supremacy.  Stay woke, lest your progressive media heroes start feeding you the same old toxic trope.