Wake Up, Mr. West: Kanye West, ‘Clayton Bigsby’ & the Confederate Flag
Earlier this week, I was driving home from the gym. I’d conveniently remembered my headphones so as not to die from boredom on the treadmill, but I forgot The Chord, the one that connects my iPhone to my truck’s stereo system.
I was stuck in the end of rush hour traffic and forced to listen to the radio, which I rarely do unless there’s a juicy interview on Power 105. Lucky for me, it was Hot 97’s countdown. Kanye West’s “Bound 2” came on. And I lost it… in a good way.
I gave “Yeezus” a cursory listen when it dropped and decided it wasn’t as good as say, “My Dark Twisted Fantasy”. I thought the same about “Watch the Throne”, which is now one of my favorite albums. I gave that a few more chances—and by chances, I mean listened to it while I drove because that’s when I really determine if I like something.
Back then, I liked Kanye’s persona and wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. By the time Yeezus dropped, I’d lost some love so I wasn’t as willing to expend the effort.
That’s my bad. Because the album has some bangers that move me the same way “College Dropout” did. “Black Skinhead”, “Blood on the Leaves” (which a lot of people hate for the chosen content over a Nina Simone sample) and “Bound 2” are amazing. Period.
After I turned the sound all the way up in my truck, singing along to the chorus at the top of my lungs, I got home and played it on repeat for 30 minutes. And after that, I wondered if liking Kanye music and loathing the actual man made me a hypocrite. I’d recently written a scathing editorial about what a massive douche West is for equating his woman to First Lady Michelle Obama. And here I was days later feeling his music like my air supply depended on it. Maybe I should give Kanye the person another try? I mean, he made “Jesus Walks”.
But iCan’t with Kanye West, at least the person, anymore. And this comes from a reformed Kanye “Stan.”
His latest stunt with this confederate flag bidness—selling it at his store, putting it on his tour paraphenelia, draping himself in it, wearing it to shop at Barneys as a double whammy— is my breaking point. West thought Spike Lee would be mad at him because he wanted to put on “80 gold chains and go ig’nant?” Hardly. It wasn’t enough for Kanye to be an ass, he had to go and be a [c-bomb] too.
On AMP Radio, West explained away this latest cry for attention artistic expression as:
The Confederate flag represented slavery in a way. That’s my abstract take on what I know about it, right? So I wrote the song, ‘New Slaves.’ So I took the Confederate flag and made it my flag. It’s my flag now. Now what you gonna do?… I just think people look cool in it. They look nice. And it’s colorless also. It’s super hood and super white boy approved at the same time. That’s really what my style has always been.
West’s mom was a professor and his father was a Panther, and yet he is, at times, embarrassingly uneducated about history. The confederate flag has been referred to as “the black people’s swastika“. It is the symbol of the army that fought to keep American-born Yeezie’s ancestors on cotton and in chains.
Rev. Al Sharpton has said of the Confederate flag:
[It] symbolizes dehumanization, injustice and pain. It is a stark reminder of an era in our history that was defined by the abhorrent practice of slavery. And it is representative of a mentality that looked upon blacks as inferiors who needed to remain in the shackles of subservience.
An Atlantic story about the flag noted it was used during the Civil Rights Movement as a symbol of “Massive Resistance” by the Dixiecrats.
The flag became the standard for those committed to defending classrooms, bus depots, and other public spaces (now battlefields themselves) from black encroachment.
These are the reasons 50,000 people got up in South Carolina to protest the Confederate flag flying over the state house in 2000. And thousands more got up and marched again many times after until it was removed.
And foolish, lost, perpetually crisis-riddled Kanye West wants to re-claim it. He sounds as dumb as people who talk in circles trying to justify the n-word, or rappers who try to explain saying “hos”.* I’d much prefer West and the like just say, ”I like to do hood rat stuff with my friends” and go on about their ignorance than trying to okey-doke thinking people with prison logic.
Because Black people love to compare themselves to Jewish people (see any commentary advocating why there should be more films about slavery/civil rights because of the number of films about the Holocaust), I must point out that you don’t see Jewish folk walking around in swastikas and calling themselves k-bombs for kicks. (Michael Jackson tried to resurrect that word in “They Don’t Care About Us” in 1995 and was quickly shut down— by Jews.) What’s next? “Reclaiming” burning crosses and dressing in bed sheets?
Further, how does this Negro fix his face to go on British radio and complain incessantly about not being accepted into Euro fashion houses when he thinks people rocking the Confederate flag “look cool” and “nice”? I need Kanye to “stop all [this] coon shit/ early morning cartoon shit”. For all his posturing about being a “genius” and on the level of Steve Jobs, Deepak Chopra, Walt Disney, and even Jesus, walking around adorned in a Confederate flag, West looks like “Clayton Bigsby”, Dave Chappelle’s legendary Black White Supremacist.
Somebody call Dap Dunlap to come “wake up” Mr. West.
*Vh1 recently re-aired Ludacris’s “Behind the Music”. The way he tried to justify saying “hos” in nearly every song was laughable in its ignorance.
**West kills me not realizing that his lady is largely considered classes by white people 1) because of her beginnings with a sex tape; and 2) because she’s dated so many Black guys, such as West