Earlier this week I wrote an article for FrontPage Mag about rap superstar Kanye West’s controversial endorsement of black conservative commentator Candace Owens. Owens had recently issued a clarion call for a black exodus from the Democratic Party, urging blacks to abandon the victim mentality encouraged by the Party and embrace a victor mentality instead. Kanye, whose degree of fame puts him in a rather unique position to have a powerful cultural impact among young voters, tweeted a startling defense of her message. In desperate response, a panicked left unleashed a social media and news media assault on Kanye, questioning not only his allegiance to the black community but even his sanity.
Since that article, the controversy has grown exponentially, with many conservative pundits celebrating (and many others doubting) Kanye’s apparent political revelation, and with many progressive pundits smearing Kanye in an effort to minimize his potentially devastating influence.
But not all of Kanye’s supporters are necessarily conservative. One unusual voice in defense of Kanye’s independent-minded tweetstorm was that of “atonement activist” Shaka Senghor, who went to prison in Michigan for second-degree murder at the age of 19 and served a 19-year sentence, five of them in solitary. He went on to write a memoir titled Writing My Wrongs and to create The Atonement Project “as a means for beginning conversations about reconciliation among those who have committed crimes and those who have felt the impact of crimes.” Part of his work is dedicated to helping young people break out of “self-imposed prisons,” “get out of prison and stay out,” and “avoid the snares of imprisonment.”
Though not a supporter of President Trump, whom Kanye embraces as a friend and a brother in “Dragon Energy,” Senghor posted a short article at Medium.com titled, “Why the Denigration of Kanye West is Bad For Us!” which succinctly sums up why the rapper’s defense of Candace Owens’ message for black Americans is so important, and why the attacks on him are counter-productive for blacks. They are, he writes,
a slap in the face of those who fight daily for the freedom of all people. To call him a coon or question his sanity without employing critical thinking is reckless and irresponsible. To propagate the idea that black people can only think one way is dangerous. A singular narrative that says that we are only allowed to think or say things that make people comfortable impedes our intellectual growth and stymies us emotionally. The belief that we can only align ourselves with one party has left us powerless and without the ability to make politicians work in our best interest, because they take our votes for granted.
There is a social media rush to judgment without about Kanye without engaging in a constructive conversation to see how he arrived at his conclusions. I personally am not a Trump supporter nor do I have blind allegiance to the Democratic Party, that has continued to ignore some of our most pressing issues. I am an advocate of freedom of speech even if I don’t like what you have to say. There are some things I agree with Kanye on like not playing the role of victims when we have an opportunity to be victors.
Senghor goes on to criticize “liberals” who “don’t fight for my liberation” and “social media demagogues” who “snuff out freedom of speech just because they disagree. Instead of bashing Kanye or questioning his mental health, we should be questioning why we go along to get along.”
Senghor urges black Americans to quit “whining and complaining” about Kanye and Trump and to ask these critical questions instead: “What are we doing to empower ourselves, what are we doing to employ ourselves, what are we doing to protect ourselves, what are doing to be fully free?”
Shaka Senghor – and Kanye West, for that matter – may or may not be intentionally urging black Democrats to convert to conservatism, but the fact remains that the very process of answering those questions for themselves will prompt black Democrats to examine what their Party is doing – or more precisely not doing – to empower and protect them. And that is the first step toward abandoning the Democrat plantation.
Photo of Kanye West by Kenny Sun