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Point/Counterpoint: What’s the impact of Kanye West’s ‘free thinking’?

U.S.+President-elect+Donald+J.+Trump+and+Musician+Kanye+West+pose+for+photographers+in+the+lobby+of+Trump+Tower+on+Dec.+13%2C+2016+in+Manhattan%2C+New+York.+%28Photo+by+John+Taggart%2FSipa+USA%2FTNS%29
U.S. President-elect Donald J. Trump and Musician Kanye West pose for photographers in the lobby of Trump Tower on Dec. 13, 2016 in Manhattan, New York. (Photo by John Taggart/Sipa USA/TNS)

U.S. President-elect Donald J. Trump and Musician Kanye West pose for photographers in the lobby of Trump Tower on Dec. 13, 2016 in Manhattan, New York. (Photo by John Taggart/Sipa USA/TNS)

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U.S. President-elect Donald J. Trump and Musician Kanye West pose for photographers in the lobby of Trump Tower on Dec. 13, 2016 in Manhattan, New York. (Photo by John Taggart/Sipa USA/TNS)

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If you haven’t heard, Kanye West loves the president almost as much as he loves himself. Over the past few days, Twitter has been in an uproar because the black entertainer has Republican leanings. This is surprising because according to the Pew Research Center, 70 percent of registered voters who identified as black were Democrats in 2016. That this even matters is ridiculous, but it has made an impression on West’s millions of followers.

Many people believe celebrities shouldn’t have any political influence, but the reality is that they do. Celebrities and public figures have a huge sway on the public, and unless we completely reboot the way our society works, that’s the way it will be. People are more likely to trust and believe a celebrity or public figure, hence, why we see product and campaign endorsements.

So, given that what celebrities say does matter, they then have the responsibility to speak their truth based on facts. People are listening, and people are quick to form opinions based on information from someone they trust. I have no problem with West wanting to support the president — more power to him for adding a diverse voice to the narrative. However, he needs to seriously fact-check what he says.

RELATED: Synthesizing the disparate Kanye West’s The life of Pablo

During a recent TMZ interview, West said, “When you hear about slavery for 400 years. For 400 years? That sounds like a choice.” This is not a fact, nor is it a valid opinion. As black man who has the time, money, and access to education, West has shocked me that he couldn’t take the time to learn about America’s relationship with black and African-American people nor the history of our political parties.

Instead, West chooses to fuel conspiracy theorists and racists with his statements. There’s no problem with being a “free-thinker,” but his words hold power. People of color in this country have always been stereotyped as a group based on the actions of one person. In this case, racists and white supremacists have found their poster boy, because if one black man thinks this way, they all should.

There is always the uncomfortable topic of African involvement in the slave trade and the idea that talking about slavery today is perpetuating the idea of white guilt. However, West’s statements concern neither. He is blatantly spewing falsehoods about history. He and other celebrities need to remember that they have a serious responsibility, regardless of what they believe.

Kanye West shouldn’t be taken seriously

By Elijah Helton

[email protected]

Kanye West isn’t the first entertainer to get involved in public discourse — two have been elected president — but just because people earn large followings for their artistic talent, that doesn’t mean they know what they’re talking about when it comes to other subjects. Remember, West is an infamous provocateur. This is the “Imma let you finish” guy. This is the “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” guy. Now he’s the “400 years of slavery, that sounds like a choice” guy.

Of course, countless other celebrities have used their platforms to advocate for a cause or two, and that’s a good thing. Using money and influence to make the world a better place deserves some celebration. But West isn’t plugging a charity or bringing attention to an under-reported issue. All he has is a banal promotion of “free thinking,” and probably his next album.

RELATED: Smith: Celebrities should not be president

One of his most recent free thoughts came from a Tuesday interview with TMZ — not exactly an outlet renowned for serious ideas — in which he declared “400 years of slavery, that sounds like a choice.” Obviously, West knows that’s not accurate. But when the backlash came, he used the old crutch of fake victimhood, tweeting, “Once again, I am being attacked for presenting new ideas.” The problem isn’t that his ideas are new, it’s that they’re wrong.

This isn’t to say West is restricted from saying whatever he wants, but he shouldn’t be taken seriously. We shrug it off when other celebrities start spewing gibberish like the planet is flat, and that’s the same sort of response West deserves.

Take a scroll through @kanyewest on Twitter; what you won’t find are wise musings on humanity, or politics, or philosophy. You’ll find basic T-shirt slogans such as “love is infinite” and “break the normal” mixed in with random videos of clothes and pictures of modeling clay. He isn’t revolutionary, or brave, or deep, he’s just weird. And to entertain his nonsensical comments as anything else isn’t dangerous, it’s just dumb.

 

 

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About the Writer
Michelle Kumar, Opinion Columnist

Email: [email protected]

Michelle Kumar is an opinion columnist at The Daily Iowan. She is a junior at the UI majoring in international studies...

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