This is bad, real bad, Michael Jackson
Now I’m mad, real mad, Joe Jackson
So the fallout from Kanye’s award-crashing incident continues on, and it is not pretty. I intentionally stayed away from commenting on it because everyone else was doing that work for me, but I am noticing a few things about the criticism now that we are a few days away from the incident:
– Those who already disliked Kanye are REALLY piling on
– A lot of folks saying “I’m not a Taylor Swift fan, BUT…”
– A small percentage of the criticism has both racist and homophobic tones to it
However, a friend of mine in academia brought to my attention that there is a segment of the population that is not taking Taylor’s side, and is actually praising Kanye for what he said and did. Former students of his that are African-American males are taking up Kanye’s cause, saying that they are proud of him for speaking the truth. That was a bit of a shock to me, because nowhere in my sphere of contact with pop culture over the past 24 hours had I seen one voice outright defend Kanye.
This got me thinking about what other implications might be floating out there as a result of Kanye’s actions. First and foremost, the visual of Kanye pulling the mic away from Taylor will only fuel any racial hatred that some backwards white supremacists might feel, although I have no doubt that Kanye was not motivated by race. As a matter of fact, there almost seemed to be a moment up on the stage where the realization of what his actions must look like to America came across Kanye’s face. There is a good portion of the public opinion that keep echoing that Kanye is clearly not right in the head, and may still be suffering after the death of his mother. Most of all, Kanye’s ego comes up once again, as if he feels his opinion should override any award being given.
Part of why this whole situation pains me so much is that Kanye, for all of his faults, means well. Even in this outburst, I am sure he felt like he was righting a wrong inflicted upon Beyonce for not winning the award. He will always have some support from me because he is one of only a few rappers to speak out against homophobia in hip-hop, and he has suffered a good amount of character assassination as a result. Granted, some of that comes from his actions in other arenas, but being outspoken on social issues, combined with a good dose of metrosexual modeling, is a bad combination in the machismo-infused hip-hop community.
Having said this, it’s interesting to me that young black males are circling the wagons in support of Kanye, and I instantly go back to other flashpoint moments in the past 10 years or so where a prominent African-American was in the news. In the case of OJ Simpson, the division between black and white never seemed deeper. With Michael Jackson’s molestation case, he might as well have had extended family all over the country. This is a foreign concept to a lot of people, where “family” drama is kept as private as possible, and an icy divide is maintained between the offender and the rest of the clan to avoid any tainting. Within the African-American community, the appearance from the outside is “we have someone who messed up, but they are still family, and we will still support them.” Refreshing in some ways, perplexing in others.
Do we have a different standard for people of different ethnicities in how they are perceived in the media, and even in our own minds? Possibly. Until we as a society can step out of our neatly maintained boxes of cultural decorum and understand that other cultures handle situations in very different ways, we will never get over these cultural divides that keep us divided as a people. Sadly, this is not going to happen any time soon, especially if you look at how a minority of the American public view the President of our nation, simply because he has African ancestry.
Which brings up one more question in my mind: how much trouble will Obama have with the African-American community because he trashed Kanye (supposedly off the record)? There is a big risk that he may be perceived as an Uncle Tom by some because he is talking poorly of “one of his own.” The guy is damned if he does, and damned if he doesn’t.
Now that quotation was a perfect way to open this post…this very well-written, thought-provoking but reasonable (not deliberately inflammatory) post. I wish more of the conversations I’ve heard recently, whether they agreed or disagreed with your points, were using the tone you used here–it’s been tough to say ANYTHING.
Thanks for the compliment. That has been my biggest struggle with this situation, because so many people have felt so passionate about what happened. First off, it’s kind of ridiculous that it has blown up as much as it has. But more importantly, folks are taking up sides like it’s a presidential election. How did we get to this point?
Well written, but I totally disagree. Beyonce is a strong woman, who is married to an even stronger guy, and thus has no need for anyone to “defend” her. It was not a “wrong” that Taylor Swift inflicted upon anyone. If anyone/thing is to blame, blame MTV. But they won’t care, as this year’s VMA telecast was the most memorable in about a decade, so they are loving all this controversy.
Yuri, do you disagree with the whole post, or just that Kanye felt like it was his obligation to defend Beyonce’s video? I never said Taylor inflicted anything upon anyone, and I agree that MTV is partially to blame here for allowing this to happen in the first place.
I disagree with the idea that we need to feel sorry for KW. No, you did not say that about Taylor because I know you thought what he did was skank.
I found this column to be very illuminating–the point that Kanye West (and others) don’t really get that what they did goes beyond being insulting to the other person in the limelight. It signals a broader breakdown of civil society where “me me me” has replaced “us us us” (or “me vs. you” instead of “we”).
I will have to check out the article, but I have no argument with your assessment whatsoever. Maybe it is a cultural aberration, but I don’t feel that courtesy and civility during an event as important as a address to Congress (and, to a lesser extent, the VMAs) is an unreasonable request.
Well, I for one, agree with Kanye. Single Ladies is perhaps the most memorable video of the decade and I am an out & proud Taylor Swift fan. It’s just the way he did it – like taking an ice cream away from a child – that was disturbing. Why not say his peace after her acceptance speech. After all it’s the VMAs, not the Grammies. I doubt Beyonce even gave a shit. Anyway, great post.
Trust me…right up until the moment that Kanye jumped on the stage, my reaction was “seriously?” I like the Taylor song, but the video is a Nickelodeon short, not a classic music video.
Excellent, excellent, provocative post. This is probably one of the best analysis I’ve read on this admittedly overblown incident. While I thought what West did was very rude and idiotic, I’ve been shocked by accusations of racism and blatant homophobic tactics such as a “Kanye is a racist f**” Facebook group invite that I’ve received. Luckily I didn’t know that particular FB “friend” very well anymore, so it was no problem for me to promptly delete him from my list. It’s sickening how low people will go in order to jump on a bandwagon that is a stretch to even build.
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