There’s no denying the fact of the magnitude of Kanye West’s influence and power. The music giant first gained traction when he revitalised Jay-Z’s career back in the early 2000’s. He produced some of the best musical and lyrical work in the past 2 decades, according to many industry critics and gained even more popularity after his then marriage to the reality TV star Kim Kardashian back in 2014. West proceeded to grow as an artist not only musically, but went on to launch his own brand in collaboration with Adidas and expanded his skills as a designer. With a net worth of $400 million, West’s influence isn’t even a question, but rather a statement.
So what do you do with that much power?
Back in 2020, West revealed to the world that he struggled with bipolar disorder and later revealed how he experiences severe psychological episodes when he doesn’t take his medication, which several celebrities condemned at the time, including his then wife Kim Kardashian & The Daily Show’s host Trevor Noah. Shortly after West opened up about his mental health struggles he started expressing questionable political opinions and openly supported former US president Donald Trump. The musician also expressed his want to run for presidency in 2024, after having run & lost in the 2020 elections.
It all went downhill from there.
Not long after supporting Trump and running for president in the 2020 elections, West started wearing MAGA (Make America Great Again) caps and shirts. Why was this concerning? Because the whole premise of MAGA is an emblem of hatred, not a campaign swag. That was the first time West started campaigning against basic human rights and against minorities.
Over the course of the last couple of years, West has continued to take questionable actions, often underlooked, until last month during Paris fashion week, when the artist sported a “White Lives Matter” shirt, yet again taking away from the conversation & the struggles of an entire community.
In late 2021, West’s socials became a frenzy, as the artist started publicly spiraling and getting off his meds. His episodes on social media went to such lengths that he publicly threatened his ex’s Kim Kardashian’s partner at the time; Pete Davidson, with murder and instigated a riot of hate against him on social media. All of which was entirely disregarded, even though the need for an intervention and deplatformization was clear. West continued to spread his vile opinions on numerous subjects on his social media platforms, which combined have a whopping 50-some million followers.
Most recent of his vile -and plainly outrageous- opinions were regarding the Jewish community, to which West tweeted saying he would be going “death con 3 ON JEWISH PEOPLE”. The aftermath? A significant rise in antisemitism. So much so, that Neo-Nazis in the US stepped up on a bridge and expressed their support to his recent views.
And as if that wasn’t enough, West also claimed that the death of George Floyd wasn’t because of police brutality, but rather because he was a black drug user.
That’s what happens when someone like West, who has 50+ million people under his influence wasn’t critiqued, wasn’t taken more seriously about his mental health issues & wasn’t deplatformed sooner.
Although now Adidas has dropped Kanye, as has Balenciaga, his lawyer, bank and talent agency, there’s much left to consider.
How far is too far when it comes to celebrities?
Why wasn’t West viewed as problematic and critiqued when he was being misogynistic, why was West not equally condemned when he made defaming & racist comments about the black community? This whole situation sparks the question of whether or not we can stand up for all minority groups and communities and not just some. If West had made islamophobic comments would it have been brushed under the rug? Had he mocked asian people, would his documentary have been shelved? What’s our benchmark to deciding that a person’s actions have crossed a limit and when/ how have we come to decide which groups of society are more valuable than others?
While West’s behavior continues to have its consequences & ripple effects, we must all take to educating ourselves and stand by those impacted by his words and actions. We must also have a broader conversation on mental health, we must recognize that while yes much of West’s recent actions were deplored by his disorder, that doesn’t make it forgivable, but equally that shouldn’t stigmatize others who suffer with the same disorder.