Kanye West, is an incredible billionaire artist, who also simultaneously, needs help. In a recent campaign rally in South Carolina, Kanye West had the audacity to criticize Harriet Tubman. Even if he used the statement to symbolize mental slavery (as many of his online supporters would claim), it still was incredibly disrespectful and trivialized her incredible achievements.
Harriet Tubman was born into slavery in Dorchester County, Maryland. She was viciously beaten, and lived with the hypersomnia due to the injuries she had sustained while enslaved. She managed to escape her horrid circumstance and fled to Philadelphia. It was there where she decided to devote her life to help other slaves. She returned to Marylandand rescued her family, and eventually brought dozens of other slaves to freedom. Her work did not end there as she also was a cook, nurse, armed scout and even a spy for the Union Army. She was the first woman to ever lead an armed expedition in the American Civil War, and through her efforts liberated more than 700 slaves.
Kanye stated that Harriet Tubman “Never actually freed the slaves.” Which is objectively untrue. Belittling slavery and those who fought for freedom, in an attempt to express a poorly worded metaphor about systemic racism, is beneath the racial equity movement. She is already an iconic symbol of strength and freedom. Attempting to misrepresent her efforts in an attempt to pontificate about our modern struggles against inequity, is problematic at best, and depressingly ignorant at worse.
Words Versus Feelings
These statements often reflect the perspective of young, uneducated ‘woke’ black Americans. Nuance and contextualized arguments are often lost because their is no longer a value in history. The world now elevates the value instantaneous gratification to such a degree, that how a person makes you feel is now more valuable than what they say. Trump is the personification of this phenomenon. His ravenous supporters will ignore and misrepresent his words in order to justify the feeling he gives them.
Every community anoints individuals who are above reproach due to their ability to make their fans feel good. For a long time R. Kelly was one of these individuals. R. Kelly was manipulating, molesting and raping underage black girls for decades. Yet, countless fans still frequented his tours and ignored his illegal actions. Many of the same people who criticize Trump and his supporters, will immediately defend Kanye. Well, the black community has finally found their Trump. Just like Trump, fans of Kanye offer translations for obvious verbal missteps at every turn.
Better Examples than Harriet Tubman
There are obviously countless examples of systemic inequity in modern society. Some will point out that there is no black ownership within the NFL, which is a fair and truly disturbing fact when approximately 70% of the player base is black. These are prominent displays of systemic racism, but to draw a correlation between playing in the NFL and slavery is simply ignorant. Slavery was unimaginably terrible, and dehumanized black populations for centuries. Today, we struggle to deal with significant cultural and systemic racist vestiges that slavery left behind. However, to diminish the efforts of those who fought before us is unconscionable.