Why are we so invested in lying to ourselves about Kanye West?


About 3 years ago to this day, I wrote an article about Kanye West titled, Kanye’s Frantz Fanon Complex. The response has been very interesting. I’ve received a plethora of emails from scholars, journalists, and bloggers agreeing or disagreeing with my initial thoughts. There was also some hate mail and angry tweets. Additionally, I was lambasted in a book that thankfully no one has read. So there’s that.

Among all of the hoopla and the never ending Kanye antics, my article continues to circulate widely, being read by over 200,000 readers and counting. Apparently, I’ve hit a nerve with an enduring sting.

Yes, there is room for discussion about life circumstances, pain and mental health. All of us need to have these discussions because they are legitimate and acknowledge our shared humanity. But there is also room for discussions about hypocrisy, accountability and social responsibility.

Right now, closing arguments for the Dylan Roof murder trial are taking place. Roof is on tape acknowledging that he went specifically to an African Methodist Episcopal church because he knew that African Americans would be there. Founded by members of the Free African Society in 1794, he knew that the AME Church was our home. Roof murdered 9 defenseless worshippers hailing the same confederate flag that Kanye wears as a provocative fashion statement.

While processing this, the hoops that people jump through to excuse Kanye West licking the boot heels of oppressors and toying with Black lives simply amazes me.

I keep coming back to the question. Why are we so invested in lying to ourselves about Kanye West?

Perhaps because the truth hurts too bad. Kanye West is an amazing artist. The Black community and beyond knows this. But his obsession with approval from white elitists is driving him further and further away from reliability.

He has lamented on stage and in his songs against the establishment. Yet longingly awaits its sweet embrace. This is a sad truth.

Another sad truth is that Kanye is all of us. 

Life is not Black and White. Nothing is so simple. We live within and navigate gray areas at almost every turn. We lament against oppressive forces, yet if given the opportunity would run towards a seat at the table instead of: tossing it over, building our own table, or forgetting tables all together by starting our own paradigm.

The man who stated, “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people, ” is now chasing after Donald Trump – a man who is endorsed by the KKK and Neo-Nazis. Donald Trump has placed every elitist, racist, hateful bigot that he can into leadership roles controlling our future. While our voting rights, health care, education, and lives are at risk, Trump is the man that Kanye seeks to rub shoulders with. This is the height of hypocrisy from a man that rails against the system.

Still, we are all hypocrites in one way or another. But our saving grace is the ability to continually work towards justice even in the midst of our own inner-most conflicts.

That’s what Kanye’s Frantz Fanon Complex is about. It’s really a critique of all of us. Fanon wrote about how members of an oppressed group/the colonized often end up idolizing and molding themselves in the likeliness of their oppressors (exhibiting the colonized mind). That is precisely what Kanye is doing. This is precisely the temptation that each of us faces everyday as we navigate the center and margins of society.

We don’t have time to continue lying to ourselves about Kanye West because that would mean we’re lying about our own fluctuating realities, getting us nowhere. In order to stay grounded and forward thinking, we need to hear the truth – even if it is painful.

Jessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor is the founder of OurLegaci.com. To reach JAM, email her at JAMAiwuyor@gmail.com. Follow her on Facebook at Facebook.com/JAMAiwuyor.

*Hey, I’m writing a book. If you know a good literary agent send them my way! JamAiwuyor@gmail.com





Kanye’s Frantz Fanon Complex

Photo Credit: Getty Images http://www.mirror.co.uk/
Photo Credit: Getty Images http://www.mirror.co.uk/

I recently wrote an article called, “Harry Belafonte Was Right About Jay-Z.” The article went viral, generating a huge response from the Black community and beyond.  A few readers were puzzled when I stated, “Kanye West…often laments about racism but strives to uphold the same materialistic values that help drive economic disparities.” Now, I will explore this more thoroughly.

There is no denying that Kanye West has had a tremendous impact on the music industry and pop culture. From the beginning of his mainstream career, Kanye has been critical of issues dealing with racism and the structures within it. His infamous, “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people,” statement caused a media frenzy and solidified the general sentiments of the Black community during the Hurricane Katrina tragedy.

Yet it seems with more fame and popularity, Kanye’s commentary has shifted from calling out racism because it’s wrong, to calling out racism because he didn’t get a seat at the table. This is the bigger issue.

Frantz Fanon
Frantz Fanon

The distinguished psychiatrist Frantz Fanon addressed this line of thinking in his 1961 classic Wretched of the Earth. In this literary masterpiece, Fanon deconstructed the colonized mind.

“The gaze that the colonized subject casts at the colonist’s sector is a look of lust, a look of envy. Dreams of possession. Every type of possession; of sitting at the colonist’s table and sleeping in his bed, preferably with his wife. The colonized man is an envious man.”

One cannot deny the lasting effects that slavery and colonialism has had on African Americans and people of African descent around the world. In a recent interview, Kanye vehemently states, “We’re all slaves!” I understand him to a certain extent. Indeed, there is a systematic glass ceiling that prevents people of African descent and people from low economic classes from upward mobility. Even when some rise up the ranks, there are still many barriers that prevent them from attaining certain goals because they do not come from a certain class (the old money class). This is where I understand Kanye on the fashion industry. They don’t want him and they never will. He will forever be categorized as “urban,” a description he is desperately running away from because he knows that this is another way of being pigeonholed and prevented from making a significant impact (beyond blackness and urbanism) in the fashion industry.

W.E.B. Du Bois

In some ways it coincides with  W.E.B Du Bois’ description of double consciousness:

It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.

However, Kanye has time and time again demonstrated that he is displeased with the system solely based on the fact that he wants a seat at the table. His anger is steeped in envy rather than reform. And this is dangerous because we get away from transforming these hierarchical structures, to unknowingly reinforcing them.

For example, this is evident in his almost complete dismissal of Black models for his runway shows in Paris. He doesn’t seem too concerned about the pains of racism unless it’s affecting his own progress. Instead, he went with the flow and continued to allow for Black models to be denied a chance at equality. He also cheers on fashion brands that are known for their lack of diversity. The fashion brand Céline, was recently boycotted by the supermodel Iman, because of their refusal to hire Black models. Meanwhile Kanye West orders full wardrobes of Céline clothing, attends their shows and sports their brand.

Furthermore, he has a lack of respect for African American history. Much like the N-Word, no matter what way you look at it, the Confederate flag represents the deep rooted oppression of African Americans. In fact, it was used as a tool to remind us of our “place.” After the Brown v. Board of Education desegregation ruling, the state of Georgia started using the Confederate flag as a sign of the good ole’ days.


The painful past associated with the symbolism surrounding the flag and what it represents is no laughing or fashion forward matter. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, about 500 extremist groups still use the cross on the Confederate Flag as a symbol of white superiority. This example is tired and old but I can’t imagine someone wearing a Swastika for fashion. I wonder if Kanye will start wearing symbols promoting the South African apartheid era next.

When Kanye speaks about racism or slavery, he’s not doing it for the ordinary people, but instead for sensationalism. He is using the Confederate flag to generate buzz, no matter how hurtful it may be.

He also has an incessant belief that Paris is the only fashion mecca and it has to let him in.  Kanye recently wanted to help the Louis Vuitton brand with his “influence.” They promptly rejected the offer.

Kanye has an obsession with getting acceptance, but not the “colored” kind. When the radio host Sway tried to encourage him to maybe create his own way, Kanye gave the now Twitter famous reply, “ You ain’t got the answers Sway.”

Indeed none of us may have the complete answers to racism and upward mobility. However, given his track record and current behavior, Kanye simply can’t be taken seriously on racism.  With every new Kanye rant we are witnessing a public display of internal conflict consisting of Fanon’s “dreams of possession” and Dubois’ double consciousness. Ultimately, he cares more about having a seat at the table with the same people he accuses of racism and classism, than bringing about change.

JamAllen2-nb-smallJessica Ann Mitchell Aiwuyor is the founder of OurLegaci.com. To reach JAM, email her at JAMAiwuyor@gmail.com.

Follow JAM on Facebook at Facebook.com/JAMAiwuyor.