As we all know by this point, Kanye West has announced his intention to run for the Presidency in 2020.
This has netted all kinds of criticism from the usual people, those convinced Kanye’s media-friendly statements mean they can make him into a tabloid joke and those who laugh assuming they are somehow superior to him and not seeing the hypocrisy inherent in that thought process. Surrounded by people doing these things, I have decided instead to take a serious look into Kanye’s budding campaign, what it will mean when 2020 rolls around, and whether one could or should acknowledge it at all or even vote for him.
Kanye is divisive amongst people regardless of their politics. He’s publicly slammed the Republican party on several occasions, rapping about Mitt Romney committing tax evasion and criticising Former President George W. Bush for not caring about black people. Still, ‘Obama called Kanye a jackass’ is embedded in the cultural consciousness. He’s obviously unlikely to get the nomination of any major party for similar reasons to why Trump won’t.
Still, Kanye is no Trump — he’s honest about what he is. He’s perhaps more outspokenly political than any other mainstream figure today. If and when Kanye runs, what will his platform be?
Kanye West is firmly left-wing. In some ways, he’s to the left of Bernie Sanders (who I personally support for 2016). Bernie and Kanye are both against the manipulation of government and society by the billionaire class and the crony capitalism of the modern US. In Bernie’s speeches, he refuses to shy away from this topic and makes income inequality a focal point of his campaign (one that resonates very well with my fellow Millennials). Kanye, however, is perhaps the first politician (if we are to apply an interesting definition to that word) who openly discusses classism and how it runs through modern society. He’s discussed class in America as being less attuned entirely to money like people tend to envision it and more like the British class system — even if you make a certain amount of money, people will see you as beneath them because you lack their high-class upbringing.
The flipside of his crusade against classism is that he doesn’t believe in modern institutional racism, a view that has netted him criticism from the black community. His belief that classism is the sole source of political unrest means he believes racism and classism to be near-synonyms, with police officers killing black youth not because of their skin itself but because they use it as a proxy for ‘poor’.
How accurate is this position? That depends on who you ask. Class discussions in the Anglosphere that centre on the UK as the region’s only state with a strict class system are dying out, and deservedly so. When comparing the US and UK, people tend to refer to the UK’s history stretching into time immemorial as giving it more of a concept of ‘old money’ than the US does, but the concept of ‘old money’ is a relative one that as it turns out has little to do with class in America; people like Jaden Smith and Lily-Rose Depp are certainly members of the American upper class, even though their parents worked their way up from more typical families. But Jaden is black and Lily-Rose is white, and even from their positions as young Hollywood royalty people will ferociously debate what this means.
If ‘black’ is used as a proxy for ‘poor’, is that making assumptions based off of race, class, or both? The US class system is closely adhered to race, with the black middle and upper classes being treated as separate entities from their white counterparts. The black middle class is also on the whole in a worse situation than its white counterpart (already in an unenviable position), with the average middle-class black person living in a neighbourhood with an average income below their own and with the lack of access to services that implies.
Perhaps the conversation is one we can’t even have yet — analysis of the US class system is still in its infancy, and in the current political climate racism is such an emotionally charged topic.
Feel free to state your own beliefs in the comments below.