Saturday, September 03, 2005

President Bush Doesn't Care About Black People

Bloggers have been saying it for days now, but last night, on NBC's charity concertn, Kanye West gave public attention to this perspective. In what is likely to be the biggest shock and awe scandal of the weekend, Kanye West went off the teleprompter (*gasp*) and delivered a rambly rant on the racism of Hurricane Katrina. Now, first of all, Kanye West is not a hero. He's not a martyr. He's not a modern day saint. He's not the country's best and brightest thinker. He was not saying anything profound or highly intelligent, but parroting things said by the Congressional Black Caucus earlier yesterday. The only difference is that Kanye had the balls, or more likely the arrogance, to say it as soon as he got a television camera trained on him. That being said, there is absolutely nothing wrong with Kanye going off script. I give him credit for saying what he thinks rather than being that which we've come to expect from our celebrities: a hand-puppet with someone else's arm sticking out of their asses, being fed cotton candy lines of pseudo-intellectualism fluff. Just like with conflict diamonds and his Jesus Piece, Kanye isn't the brightest bulb in the box, but when someone tells him something he should be upset about, he's not afraid to relay that outrage to the world, however inarticulately. And believe me, it was inarticulate. At some point, the man stopped making sense (transcript courtesy of the Washington Post:

...I've even been shopping before even giving a donation, so now I'm calling my business manager right now to see what is the biggest amount I can give, and just to imagine if I was down there, and those are my people down there. So anybody out there that wants to do anything that we can help -- with the way America is set up to help the poor, the black people, the less well-off, as slow as possible. I mean, the Red Cross is doing everything they can. We already realize a lot of people that could help are at war right now, fighting another way -- and they've given them permission to go down and shoot us!
Huh? Now, I appreciate that the man was nervous, but my feeling is that if a person is planning on addressing millions of people on national television and plans to go off script, he should organize his own thoughts so that he knows what to say. Kanye is making a great point, and it needed to be heard, but he also could've avoided all this criticism now by not sounding a bit like a total fool. That being said, he did deliver the best line of the segment:
George Bush doesn't care about black people!
Poor Mike Meyers, who was sticking to the ass-puppet goodness, looked terrified. After all, his teleprompter didn't say "[Don't give the camera back to Kanye!]". But, what hasn't really been talked about in the articles and blog posts I've read is the punchline to all of this: dear, dear Chris Tucker who found himself thrust into the spotlight unprepared and just given a couple of minutes of airtime so that Kanye West would no longer be on the air. Bless Chris' dear heart, he tried. But if we thought Kanye was inarticulate, Chris didn't stand a chance. His rambling was at least on message, but the video segment I saw cuts with him practically pleading into the camera, "Please, please, please! Help, help, help! Help, help, he-..." Now, I realize this is all about the stereotype of the inarticulate, uneducated black man. And it's fucked up that both Kanye and Chris Tucker perpetuated those stereotypes last night -- there really should've been more thought put into all of this to avoid that scenario. Kanye could've delivered a powerful message off-script, and the directors of the NBC live charity concert could've done a better job feeding lines to the flabbergasted Mike Meyers and Chris Tucker, who are, of course, incapable of thinking on their feet. But then again, I've always maintained that Kanye West's "I'm a college dropout and I'm proud of it" thing was going to come back and bite him in the ass, one day. Update: Thanks to Mike2Cents for posting a link to the Kanye West / Mike Meyers / Chris Tucker video.


Anonymous Kaede said...

He doesn't care about them, and apparently neither do a lot of Americans on this blog

I tell ya, these ppl about made me sick to my stomach.

9/04/2005 12:00:00 AM  
Blogger solitaire said...

Jenn...thanks so much for saying what I've been thinking.
I liked that Kanye had the 'balls' to say what he said. But it doesn't make him a spokesperson for the entire race.

I thought I was the only one who thought "what the HELL is he rambling on about?"

Then again, he was trying to get all his thoughts out before they cut him off.

I have to see Chris Tucker now...for some reason what you typed made me laugh out loud. Poor thing!

"But then again, I've always maintained that Kanye West's "I'm a college dropout and I'm proud of it" thing was going to come back and bite him in the ass, one day."


9/04/2005 03:06:00 AM  
Blogger solitaire said...

Oh darn...that link doesn't work! :o(

9/04/2005 03:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Kaede said...

There's the link.....I hope that works....(hope that's what you meant, solitaire)

9/04/2005 09:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Loren Javier said...

Yeah...I think the one thing that hurt Kanye West in his remarks is that he came off looking like he was rambling and unfocused. But, nonetheless, I support anything that continues to place the heat on the Bush Administration for their lack of attention to this disaster and for just calling on how, as a society on the whole, we're still as racist and classist as we've ever been. It's not excusable to hear people say that nobody could have foreseen this level of disaster when they knew for days that a level 5 could potentially hit New Orleans and that the levy system would only be able to withstand a level 3.

9/04/2005 12:29:00 PM  
Blogger nykol said...

Not everyone in world is articulate or educated. And we all know that. (remember, being educated is an aspect of privilege - not all people have access to it or value it)Kanye West is proof of that. The New Orleans situation obviously pissed him off and at least he had the guts to say what we have all been thinking. The so-called inarticulate are entitled to speak their mind, even if it's not in words that we think are all that effective. At least he is speaking and had the opportunity to do so.

9/06/2005 07:52:00 AM  
Blogger nykol said...

@ kaede: Thanks for posting that link. Had to enter a scathing comment there - for my own peace of mind.........

9/06/2005 08:12:00 AM  
Blogger Jenn said...

...The New Orleans situation obviously pissed him off and at least he had the guts to say what we have all been thinking. The so-called inarticulate are entitled to speak their mind, even if it's not in words that we think are all that effective. At least he is speaking and had the opportunity to do so.

I agree with this sentiment. He did have guts to say what he thought. I just don't think he's a hero. He is not our generation's Pac, which is what he's being made out to be.

And besides which, this is a man who did have the opportunity to attend college and chose to drop out instead, to pursue his rhymes.

That, in and of itself, I don't think is a problem (kids drop out for better and worse reasons), but my dislike for Kanye West stems from his first album in which he not only flaunted his anti-intellectualism, but encouraged other black youths (already underrepresented in higher education) to write-off schooling. That anti-intellectualism is already rampant in black youth culture, and Kanye only serves to perpetuate the disrespect and intolerance for intelligence amongst young black men and women.

While there is a debate that could be had about the merits of books smarts vs. street smarts, I don't think it's right to praise Kanye for his voicing of an already popular sentiment while ignoring how he has used that same spotlight to praise the virtues of being inarticulate to other kids. It's like with his Jesus Piece -- I think it's great that he brought to popular attention the issue of conflict diamonds, but I think as much as we praise Kanye for saying the smart thing, we should be critical of him for encouraging the pursuit in his own life and in the lives of his fans, the kind of anti-intellectualism that would make him ignorant of conflict diamonds in the first place until someone told him the problem.

He can't have his cake and eat it too. If people are going to care about what Kanye has to say, then we should care about all of it, not just the stuff we want to hear right now.

(Incidentally, the skits on College Dropout really offended me. He wasn't just saying that street smarts are important, he was saying that I and everyone in academia were poor, broke, elitist fools for trying to pursue a higher education.)

9/07/2005 04:16:00 PM  
Blogger nykol said...

@jenn: It's true about Kanye. And it drives me crazy that the media, music folks, whomever, always have the knack to compare some current star to a previous star - which obviously doesn't work. And no, he's not a hero. I certainly agree with that.

My question is - why is anti-intellectualism so rampant in youth culture anyway? I have a few guesses as to why and I think that is why Kanye West - with all of his inarticulateness is a case in point. Bill Cosby eschewed some of the very same things that you are pointing to in the West situation - and he got dogged out for a whole lot of things related to that. Michael Eric Dyson wrote an entire book on the discourse, enititled, "Is Bill Cosby Right?" Also, this is nothing new, but Kanye West is certainly riding the commodity wave of black youth anti-intellectualism.

But I digress. Kanye West ain't no hero - it's true. But I also think his perpetuation of it is illustrative of the market forces involved in the commodification of black youth anti-intellectualism. He's a cog in the machine, so to speak.

The anti-intellectual ethos to which you refer is actually a discourse on hegemony that manifests itself in anti-intellectualism. I can feel a post (rather posts) about this coming on. Uh-oh.... :)

9/07/2005 07:30:00 PM  
Blogger POPS said...

I'm not a huge KW fan, but I understand where he was coming fun. No, he's not our modern-day hero, but he used the opportunity he had to shed light on a larger than life issue. Life is always about balance. If he was straight pro-intellectualism, would you even know him? My man Saigon said it best, people ain't tryong to hear you of all you are doing is preaching. You gotta come to them to get them to inch towards you. I have my fair share of beef with his varying approaches, but overall he is definitely less of a threat to the well-being of my people. Plus, he seemed evidently very nervous if you pay attention to the clip again. He may have just decided minutes before to go with his never know...

9/10/2005 08:30:00 PM  
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