Why the Kanye Controversy Seems Familiar
Kanye West, or “Ye,” as he likes to be called, is a very unique individual. One would be hard-pressed to name someone who has a life quite like his.
Since dropping out of college at the age of 20, Kanye has gone on to stellar careers in two of this country’s most competitive industries: music — where he has excelled as a rapper, producer, and songwriter — and fashion, where his brand has given him a net worth of nearly a billion dollars. And, as if these things weren’t enough, he’s also married to one of the sexiest women alive.
Kanye West is also unique in that he may currently be our most vilified Black celebrity, perhaps surpassing even Bill Cosby. While Mr. Cosby may have just been charged, and convicted, as a serial rapist, Ye — who is becoming more known for wearing his bright red “Make America Great Again” cap, than for wearing a pair of his Yeezy sneakers — has been charged, and convicted, of being President Trump’s most visible Black supporter.
For this, Kanye was accused of behaving like a “next level, futuristic Sambo” by T.I., and of saying “Im wit you Master” by 50 Cent. Jay-Z and Beyoncé no longer want anything to do with Kanye West, or his wife Kim Kardashian. And, a CNN panel with two, out of three African American commentators, and an African American moderator, dismissed him in ugly racial terms. One panelist, a Black former congressman, said, incredibly, that “Kanye West is what happens when Negros don’t read.”
Yet, despite the great uniqueness of Kanye West’s life, and career, there is something very familiar about the current political controversy surrounding him. To verify this, one need go no further than the fellow sitting to Kanye’s left during his White House visit: the legendary athlete Jim Brown.
In 1973, when Brown had endorsed Nixon, in 1968 and 1972, the New York Times reported “Blacks in Baltimore have … announced that they will picket future films of Jim Brown, the former football star turned movie actor.” The same article reported that the amazing James Brown, a true musical genius who co-wrote, and performed the popular civil rights anthem “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud,” was picketed by protesters for his 1972 support of President Nixon, as well.
Another great talent, Sammy Davis Jr., also took heat for his support of President Nixon. According to a 2003 article in the Washington Post:
Sammy Davis Jr.’s 1972 reelection endorsement of President Richard Nixon had come to this: death threats in the mail. His young secretary, Ann Slider, had been brought to tears. The mail was so vicious she hid it from Davis and turned it over to federal authorities. Blacks, most of whom despised Nixon and had long been put off by Davis’s “white” lifestyle, were openly angry.
According to this article, Davis was so battered was by the anger of the Black community — including threats from Black militants, and letters calling him “n****r” and “Uncle Tom” — that he eventually had to give Jesse Jackson $25,000, and agree to perform for Jackson’s organization Operation PUSH to get “out of the Nixon imbroglio.”
National Review writer Deroy Murdock once wrote:
Republicans need not win the black vote, or even a third of it. Securing 15 percent of the black electorate severely erodes the stalwart-Democrat base. If 20 to 25 percent of blacks vote GOP, it’s curtains for Democrats.
If Republicans seek black votes, they will win some. As the Republican National Committee’s recent autopsy of the 2012 election noted: “We are never going to win over voters who are not asked for their support.” The study lamented that black voters routinely back Democrats “without hearing anyone in their community making a case to the contrary.”
It is to be expected, then, given this dependence by Democrats on near-unanimous support of African American voters, that those Blacks in a position to be heard by their community, and who speak of a political alternative to the Democratic Party, that Democrats would want those voices silenced, even if by bullying, threats, shunning, or racial insults.
It is extremely unfortunate however that often — as seen with figures like Sammy Davis Jr., James Brown, and Jim Brown in the 1970’s or with Kanye West today — Democrats have been able to rely on other African Americans to perform their dirty work.