No stranger to controversy, critically acclaimed rapper Kanye West has generated a whirlwind of media attention since returning to Twitter in late April . This controversial tweet storm reached its peak when West praised African American conservative activist Candace Owens for the way she thinks .
West also stirred the pot by claiming “Obama was in office for eight years and nothing in Chicago changed”, questioning former President Barack Obama’s record in bringing change to a city facing ongoing street violence .
A complete about-face from his race-baiting comments in 2005 , when he stated on live TV that then President George W. Bush did “not care about black people”, West’s recent comments have opened up considerable debate on racial affairs in America.
Pop Culture’s Potential to Change Politics
In the midst of his tweet barrage, various individuals have dismissed West’s remarks as a publicity stunt to promote his upcoming albums .
As mentioned before, West does have a penchant for stirring up controversy for publicity’s sake. In fact, West has openly admitted to being a “proud non-reader”, thus calling into question West’s political beliefs or lack thereof.
It remains to be seen whether West’s comments were sincere or reflect some sort of political “awakening” on his part, but the potential power of cultural figures like Kanye West still cannot be underestimated.
Nobel laureate economist F.A. Hayek understood the power of second-hand dealers such as academics, artists, journalists, and teachers in disseminating and popularizing ideas. These second-hand dealers play a crucial role in influencing policymakers and the general public.
Thanks to growing levels of distrust with government, a large segment of the population has lost faith in the traditional political process. Consequently, these disillusioned individuals have turned to entertainers and other pop culture icons like West as sources of credibility and relatability.
Questioning the Democrat vs Republican Narrative
Like the entertainer that he is, Kanye West has taken his social media rabble rousing to the recording booth.
In a recent song, Ye vs. The People , featuring fellow rapper T.I., West rapped on the song:
“That’s the problem with this damn nation/All Blacks gotta be Democrats/Man, we ain’t made it off the plantation”.
Provocative lyrics aside, there exists a nugget of truth in West’s rap verse.
It is no secret that the Democrat Party enjoys monolithic support from the African American community. Democrat presidential candidates have averaged 87 percent of the African American vote in the past 12 presidential elections.
Why Democrats have dominated with African American voters has been highly debated among political commentators , but the majority of these discussions lead to the unproductive black hole of partisan politics.
And West has fallen into this partisan trap.
The real problem ignored in these debates is the elephant in the living room that is government interventionism — something both political parties have taken a fancy to implementing in one way or other once in power.
The broken schools , dependency on welfare services , and the deterioration of the family unit that the average African American living in the inner cities must currently put up with was unheard of for a good portion of U.S. history. From 1890 to 1954 , African Americans had similar participation rates in the labor force as whites and were able to ascend the economic ladder with ease.
However, the key ingredient to the African American community’s success during that time period was limited government, a salient feature of the Gilded Age up until the New Deal era. In sum, it’s more than just switching political parties that will help African Americans prosper, but rather focusing on creating an institutional environment that facilitates economic growth.
Crush Dissent at All Costs
Unfortunately, minority leaders and pundits ignore the socialist elephant in the living room and prefer to turn to race-baiting and victim politics. As a result, constructive political discussion has remained stagnant.
When intellectuals and political personalities like Larry Elder, Thomas Sowell, and Walter Williams propose free-market alternatives to common social issues, entrenched political commentators immediately dismiss them as Uncle Toms or race traitors .
And when Kanye West dared to question certain sacred cows, he was met with the same scorn from the mainstream media.
This type of discourse embodies the authoritarian nature of modern-day liberalism: Support diversity in name but promote one-size fits all narratives when controversial political subjects emerge.
Bringing it Back to Basics
Breaking barriers and bucking conformist trends form the bedrock of hip-hop culture. In the status quo of identity politics, Kanye West’s audacious statements line up perfectly with the original spirit of hip-hop.
Starting out as an obscure movement in the South Bronx during the 1970s, hip-hop would serve as a creative outlet for disgruntled African American youth that were tired of the inner-city conditions they lived in.
By the late 1980s, hip-hop solidified itself as one of the hottest musical trends in the United States.
Rappers under the influence of social justice narratives can rant about the horrors of capitalism as much as they want, but it was this same capitalist system that made hip-hop an integral part of American popular culture.
The jury is still out on whether or not West’s media escapade will fundamentally change racial political discussions. Nevertheless, a healthy degree of skepticism is advised when breaking down these recent developments.
In today’s environment of Team R vs. Team D politics, the temptation to gravitate towards one political party or the other for solutions is still strong. For African Americans, joining the Republican Party—or any other political party for that matter—does no guarantee the path to the promised land.
The GOP’s interventionist policies merit substantial criticism, and just like their Democrat rivals, the GOP has played an integral role in perpetuating the current welfare state paradigm that disproportionately hurts minority groups.
Moral of the story:
African Americans must look beyond the traditional political process for genuine socio-economic stability.
Let’s hope that Kanye West’s recent actions don’t turn out to be another of his long line of publicity stunts. For inner-city dweller’s sake, it’s high time to start talking about free-market solutions to their problems.