Black Thoughts Matter

Black Thoughts Matter: Kanye West Takes the Red Pill

“This your last chance. After this there is no turning back. You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember, all I’m offering is the truth. Nothing more.”

-Morpheus to Neo in the Matrix

This week many have asked whether Kanye West has gone insane. Has the creator of such social commentaries as “Gold Digger”and“No Church in the Wild”gone off the deep end? No. Kanye has just kept on commenting, but his traditional audience doesn’t like what he is saying. Kanye West has taken the Red Pill, and the Matrix falls to nothing around him. The Truth is out.

Tylenol_8_hour_pills_closeup

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

In his famous work The Republic, Plato wrote about the allegory of the cave. In this story, many people are chained in a cave, unable to look but in a single direction, towards a flat wall. While chained there, the people could only see shadows, but because it was all they could see, they assumed that those shadows were reality. In Plato’s version, the Philosopher represented the man who could free himself from his chains and was soon forced out into the light beyond the cave. The light blinded him and frightened him, but eventually his eyes grew accustomed to the sun and he could behold the real world for the first time. When the philosopher went back to his fellows in the cave, they refused to join him and threatened him with death if he tried to force them into the light. This story is too frequently the reality of mankind, though often-times it is the artists who lead people first to the light of the Truth, whereas the philosophers only join them later after reason follows where feelings lead. Too often when the new Truth is revealed, the old vanguards who created the old false ideology fight back, whether it be to kill Socrates, Jesus, or MLK.

Today, Kanye West is the Artist who is trying to interpret and explain his feelings and is having great difficulty doing so. First, he tweeted out a photo of himself wearing a Make America Great Again hat, something that takes courage for a celebrity such as himself. Then, most controversially, Kanye did an interview with TMZ that cannot be described except as a sermon. As Kanye struggles to find the words to explain what he, the Archetypal Artist, feels, he makes some mishaps. Most precariously, he said, “When you hear about slavery for 400 years…for 400 years? That sounds like a choice.” However, this quote is deeply removed from context. I would first like to encourage everyone to watch the full interview and decide for themselves what they think that Kanye is trying to say. I will provide my interpretation here. I believe that he is saying that there is a distinction between the first 250 years of black slavery in America, ending in 1865, which was clearly not a choice, and the 150 years since then. Until the 1960s Jim Crow, segregation, and widespread discrimination made it incredibly difficult to rise up as a black person in America. That period of American history is over. Today, lawsuits over discrimination against Asians, whites, males, and conservatives have gained both prominence and momentum at places like Harvard and Big Tech. Affirmative action faces huge amounts of hatred on college campuses, and racial affirmative action is being dropped in favor of students who are the “first generation to go to college.”

Kanye West goes on to describe what he means by the last 150 years of slavery. He breaks it down into two different parts. Firstly, he says that black people in America have imprisoned their minds by creating social norms that are policed to the extreme. A recent NPR article titled What the Kanye West Controversy can Teach us about Black Votersagrees with this sentiment, citing that black people are more likely to say that they vote for democrats when asked by a black pollster than a white one. Kanye describes his alternative as “free thought,” saying that “you can’t tell me nothin’.” In this way Kanye West is trying to free his fellow man. Kanye has left Plato’s cave; he is a free thinker and a free man. Kanye West specifically says that black people need to forgive white people for slavery. This is a radical idea to say the least, but one that is closely tied to the Christian ideal of forgiveness for all loving both your neighbor and your enemy.

The second imprisonment that Kanye West sees is chains that restrain your belief in yourself. He describes how his daughter was told at school by a white teacher that she was black, and he asks, “what does it mean to be black in America if a white teacher tells her that she’s black?” He goes on to ask people to not hold themselves back. In America today, if someone works hard for success, they will achieve it. The left-leaning Brookings Institute noted that only 2% of people that followed three simple rules live in poverty in the United States and most have joined the middle class: graduate high school, get a job, and wait until 21 to get married and have children. Kanye has been successful, now he wants others to stop holding themselves back because they believe they can’t make it in America. They are wrong. As the poem “Invictus”by William Ernest Henley declares, “I am the master of my fate.” Kanye is asking people to think for themselves; Kanye is asking that people free themselves, grab hold of their destiny, and make it into what they want it to be. I hope they do.