Alright, I’m not stupid enough to wade into a discussion of whether or not Kanye West is a traitor to his skin color, even if The Root uses West’s own words regarding George W. Bush’s assumed feelings about skin color against the rapper.
Because 1.) I do actually believe communities of people are like families — they know the long stories and history of the members of the clan, and they have every right to work out their dinner table battles among themselves. (However, in fairness, when you argue about this stuff in the middle of the internet street, you kind of do invite everyone into your family business.)
And 2.) I just really don’t want the grief. Lazy, but true.
That said, The Root, in suggesting Kanye West has suddenly stopped caring about his family, is acting like the stodgy old second-great-uncle once-removed who shows up every year at the family gathering, but that no one likes to talk to about new ideas because he’s kind of racist.
Their piece recounts the story of a gentleman by the name of Panama Jackson who basically disowned his own mother because she voted for Trump; and then they dump all of that on West because, they are apparently arguing, if people in the family are making that kind of sacrifice, West (who they’ve all supported and loved while he found himself) is just throwing it in their face.
Intent doesn’t matter as much as action and effect. And Kanye’s recent actions have shown, in a clear and unambiguous fashion, that he doesn’t care about black people. Black people who have supported him and amplified him and even shielded him from and defended him against the type of people he’s aligning himself with. Black people who watched him grow from the person with the name we didn’t quite know how to pronounce who kept getting production credits on Jay-Z and Cam’Ron tracks to arguably the most important person in hip-hop. Black people who made him.
Black people like Panama, who, again, ended a relationship with his own mother because of what her support of the man whom Kanye just called one of his “favorite people” represents.
It’s just a weird argument to make (because it’s not even really an argument): we disown you for thinking differently about politics. I suppose it makes more sense if one truly does associate the whole #MAGA thing with actual white supremacy. I’m not sure I do.
I think there were some knucklehead nationalists who definitely co-opted it as a rallying cry, but I don’t think Donald Trump is a racist. And West clearly doesn’t either. I don’t get the sense West is a man unafraid to call someone out for bigotry. And Trump is who West says he’s supporting, not torch-carrying idiots who hate themselves and like to spread their self-loathing around.
In any event, and to put it simply: disowning family members because they disagree politically isn’t really working toward strengthening family ties. Furthermore, if you require lockstep agreement you will have rebellion. It’s just how families work.