On Kanye Propping up Pernicious Lies
Clint Smith believes we all share a story, the human story. It’s in the telling, he believes, that we emerge as individuals and celebrate what we have in common. His two TED Talks, The Danger of Silence and How to Raise a Black Son in America, have been viewed more than five million times. Using his experience as an award-winning teacher, writer, and poet to share personal stories of justice, community, and education, his customizable art-form illuminates how we can all find the courage to create change, overcome challenges, and unite ourselves through the power of the collective voice.
In a captivating piece for The New Republic, Smith addresses the dangerous remarks Kanye West has made around slavery. And, despite the urge to just ignore those thoughts as rambling and meaningless, Smith explains why we can’t ignore West and the damage he can do.
Here is a taste of that piece:
In the past week, he has publicly embraced Donald Trump and tweeted a picture of himself wearing the president’s signature Make America Great Again hat. He has suggested that Democrats are the real racists, citing the fact that Democrats were the party of the Confederacy and segregation (without acknowledging, or seeming to know, that the parties switched their historic roles on racial issues after passage of the Civil Rights Act). As a result, he has invited questions about his mental health and speculation that this is all a cynical performance to sell albums.
But this statement, in all of its ahistorical absurdity, was particularly unsettling. Coming from one of the country’s most famous entertainers, it legitimizes the still-pervasive belief that African Americans are somehow to blame for their condition. In this, West has become the latest in a long, unfortunate line of black people who have become mouthpieces for white supremacist ideas.
West’s apparent ignorance of this country’s past is tied, in part, to the fact that so many of our textbooks are saturated with revisionist history. According to a recent survey by the Southern Poverty Law Center, only 8 percent of U.S. high school seniors were able to identify slavery as the central cause of the Civil War. This figure is distressing but it is not shocking. For the past 150 years, there has been a concerted effort to misremember what slavery was and who was responsible, not only to exonerate whites, but to also ensure that white power remains entrenched.
Read the full story.