President Kanye Part 1: Race vs Class

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.

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MSG, Racial History, and the Failsafe Diet

One thing people are really great at doing is denying their own history.

Controversy abounds in the concept of ‘MSG sensitivity’, that idea that monosodium glutamine creates serious food reactions in some proportion of the population. Some people will fight tooth and nail to say that they break out in hives the second it passes their lips; some say that every single piece of evidence suggests that MSG is, if anything, better for you than most sodium and that MSG sensitivity is naught but racism against the Chinese.

I haven’t been a believer in MSG sensitivity for a couple years now. I think that, at the very least, the concept is a holdover from a distinctly racist age. But one thing that I question when I see it raised is the statement that those who claim MSG sensitivity miraculously only react to it in Chinese food, as though they have no awareness that it occurs in high levels in much less racially charged food products. I question this claim because it is simply wrong.

I am a diagnosed autistic, and long before I was a diagnosed autistic I was a suspected one. I am still a suspected ADHD sufferer, and I had some severe childhood behavioural issues due to the intersection of both conditions with very severe bullying. Due to the lack of a cure for autism (then again, as an ASAN supporter, I consider that about the best possible scenario) and the controversy of drug treatment for ADHD, one can find a large variety of alternative treatments for both disorders. Some very prominent alternatives are diet-based. As a child, I spent some time on the Failsafe Diet, a diet particularly prominent in Australia for these conditions. I still have a copy of a guidebook to it in the very room I’m composing this post in.

The idea of the Failsafe Diet is that salicylates — a naturally occuring chemical in many food products and aspirin — and amines — a type of organic compound — along with certain kinds of antioxidants, preservatives, and flavourings, are to blame for the vast majority of childhood disorders and behavioural issues and that a diet designed to be low in all of those (or just the specific ones the child ‘responds’ to) can fix them or mitigate their severity. I was a ‘responder’ to several different additives, MSG being one of them. The issue of being unable to eat Chinese food wasn’t even raised during the couple of years I was on the diet.

What was raised? Tomatoes, pasta, two-minute noodles (ramen), several other foods that I can’t even remember these days but that weren’t particularly Chinese. Large swarths of food were cut out of my diet, and if you attempted to plot them amongst racial lines you would find nothing to support the “the concept of MSG sensitivity is still intentionally racist” hypothesis. Inherently racist, certainly, but many of the people who discuss it today don’t even make that link.

What did the Failsafe Diet do? Well, my mother still swears that it helped. I question her assumption. I feel as though there were times when I personally felt better, but that could easily have been psychogenic — I was a gifted child and particularly obsessed with the diet, pouring through the guidebooks and analyzing nutritional labels. Also, though my memories of my childhood are choppy and misplaced, my severe childhood depression may well have overlapped with the timeframe I was on the diet, at least for a while.

But I don’t think it made anyone hate Chinese people.