By Jenise Jackson
Blog Content Contributor
Well, here we are entering the month of May. We haven’t even made it halfway through the year and plenty of problematic public figures are making headlines. Unfortunately for me, some of these individuals have been people I admire or support. But with these artists saying and doing things that others would find offensive or abnormal (or having done so in the past), the question of whether or not it is still OK to support them arises in my head.
Although I have no clue what it is like to be in the limelight, I would think that being a public figure doesn’t exempt you from being on your Ps and Qs. In fact, public figures should be mindful of the things they do or say more than the average person because so many eyes of the world are watching them as much as possible. Now it’s true that everyone is entitled to their own opinions and beliefs. But when those opinions and beliefs start to negatively affect your fanbase, where should we draw the line?
Since this has been a hot topic on social media this week, I will use it as my prime example. If you keep up with Twitter, you have probably seen Kanye West’s reckless tweeting fiasco. Most people know that Kanye is known for being unpredictable and erratic at times, but even these latest incidents were even alarming coming from him. Eyebrows started to raise when Kanye stated that he loves the way Candace Owens thinks. For those who don’t know, Candace Owens is a black, conservative YouTuber who has notably supported views that push back on many political and ideological beliefs of the African-American community. She has called Donald Trump the “savior” of the free world and Black Lives Matter protesters “a bunch of spoiled toddlers, who seek nothing but attention.” You can probably see why people got a little heated with Kanye for supporting her, but that isn’t even the real kicker.
Kanye then decided he was going to proclaim his admiration for Donald Trump. While also posting about his new “Make America Great Again” hat, Kanye said that while he does not agree with everything Trump does, the people can’t make him not love Trump. And what is Kanye’s explanation for all of these recent confessions? The idea of free thinking.
— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) April 25, 2018
So let me explain why I find this all to be problematic. Let’s go back to 2005 after Hurricane Katrina when celebrities were doing a national telethon to raise support for those affected by the storm. While standing next to comedian Mike Myers, Kanye West voiced his frustration with the way black victims were being portrayed in the media and how people were so slow to help the victims of the storm because the majority of them were black. We got this infamous line: “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” What I find ironic is that 13 years later, Kanye chooses to support a new president who continues to prove that his consideration for the black community, as well as other minority groups, is slim to none. I just find it hard to be for your people while also being against us. And when it comes to free thinking, I’m all for it. I truly believe that the world could use more of it. But I have a problem with free thinking that comes at the expense of the oppressed, which is how I would describe Kanye’s free thinking. For me, Janelle Monáe put it best. “If your free thinking is used as fuel by oppressors to continue to oppress black people, minorities — I think it’s […] not OK.”
With all of this, I have taken a stance to no longer support Mr. West at this time. Just as Kanye chooses to be himself even when people don’t agree with him, I can do the same. Call me a fake fan or whatever, but I just can’t sit back and support a man who endorses a president whose rhetoric and agenda promotes racism, sexism, etc. And you better believe it’s not just Kanye I would do this for. Any public figure that wants to act upon or promote negative ideology, I simply don’t see myself being a fan of — which makes separating their work from their image, opinions, and beliefs nearly impossible for me because I don’t want to feel as if I am complicit.
Now as humans, not everyone is going to think or act alike and that’s fine. What I may think is wrong, someone else might think is right and vise versa. Sometimes we say things that we either mean or they are taken out of context. What I’m trying to say is, we all deserve the space to mess up and be ourselves. We all make mistakes because that is just apart of life, but it’s the content of our character that should define us. As for problematic individuals, I do believe that they can change or at least learn to take responsibility for some fault as to what they do or have done. However, that is all determined by their actions. Lately, we have seen a lot of these tiring apologies typed out in Apple’s Notes app and those just aren’t good enough in my opinion. I want to physically see the lessons these individuals learn, possibly through activism or something positive. Maybe then they can be forgiven and earn back support.
Freedom dictates that no one has to be anything that they don’t want to be, so I can’t really tell anyone what to do when it comes making a decision on whether or not they should continue supporting problematic public figures. But I will say this: if you continue to support these problematic individuals, it might be time to question what it is that you really stand for.
Featured image by Jenise Jackson.