Trading genius for bigotry

Zahara Latson, Staff Writer

Kanye West’s recent internet breakdown is nothing new and is better described as another scene in the highlight reel of his controversial existence. While some people look at West and see a mentally ill person on the internet actively destroying their reputation, he has become one of the most famous musicians on Earth. He has received so much praise from the music and fashion industries, thus earning him the title of greatest of all time (GOAT) from his fans and the title of genius from himself. With the privilege of fame, West’s recklessness trampled through the tabloids, excused by his eccentricity, leaving his radical, racist and controversial persona unchecked through the years. 

West is arguably the largest unmoderated celebrity with no filter on any ideas or creations he has. His freedom of expression is radical and exacerbated by his untamed behavior. Most recently, this has resulted in him posting racist statements about the Jewish and Black communities on Instagram. After being restricted, West took to Twitter, posting antisemitic threats to Jewish people, saying he would go “death con 3” on them and excusing that statement with “The funny thing is I actually can’t be Anti Semitic because black people are actually Jew.” This was after his other most recent controversy where he was seen in his Paris Fashion week lineup wearing a “White Lives Matter” t-shirt with Candace Owens, a far-right, black political figure. West explained this decision as a feeling…a gut instinct and a connection with God.” And while it seems like these episodes of unwarranted attacks and comments came out of nowhere, West’s infamous tabloid fame started in the early 2000s with scandals like upstaging Taylor Swift or defending Bill Cosby when he was accused of sexual assault. During this time, West was always able to return to the industry with open arms, seemingly taking advantage of the attention and directing it toward his upcoming projects. 

This took a turn when West came out in support of Donald Trump before the 2016 elections, followed by a 2018 TMZ interview saying, “When you hear about slavery for 400 years…that sounds like a choice.” As he began exposing his alt-right views to the media, people started to cancel him, including other celebrities. During this time, West’s struggle with bipolar disorder was heavily discussed in the media where people began to link his erratic behavior throughout the years to common characteristics of the mental illness. West was institutionalized for bipolar disorder in 2016 and told Forbes in 2019 that people need to “understand that this is actually a condition that people can end up in, be born into, driven into.” His mental issues came back up during his political campaign in 2020 when he had a breakdown at his own rally. 

Some may blame West’s recent scandals on his inflamed ego being bruised by his recent divorce or how his mother’s tragic death in 2007 triggered pre-existing mental issues, thus leading him to spiral out of control. And while those may be contributing factors, what people miss is West’s purposefulness. He understood what it took to become untouchable in Hollywood, and he chose to abuse it. He used his influence to seek people who manipulate the system for power and consistently makes himself relevant to them, no matter the cost to any group he offends. He is a man who sees himself as the leader of the free world, and that goal has never left his sight. Although West’s ideas seem to be advocating for the liberation of People of Color (POC), his execution is racist and usually takes away from the trauma and struggles that systematically impoverished and oppressed POC face. People like Donald Trump, West’s muse, whose erratic behavior and hot-button, far-right commentary gained him a strong follower base, turning his presidential campaign — which was previously seen as a joke — into a legitimate and successful run. That is the type of national and global influence that West feels he can accomplish by doing exactly what he is doing now. Through every painful loss and excruciating criticism, West has never dropped his delusions of a world he could influence into his own. And through every racist headline and radical right-wing ally he makes, those delusions are becoming his reality. 

So yes, West is guilty of being a racist, egotistical, power-hungry celebrity who continues to offend community after community,but he did not do this alone. With every person who idolizes him is giving him a platform to spew hate and refusing to condemn his actions, West continues to believe that what he is doing with his influence is just a spiritual journey, something genius or politically revolutionary for his time. In reality, he is cyberbullying celebrities and saying antisemitic and racist things on Twitter and justifying it with deeper thought that has no substance. He deserves to be called out and held accountable by his friends, his family and, most importantly, his fans.