Kanye’s Failed Wokeness Reminds Us That You’ve Got To Put In The Work

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Thirteen years ago, Kanye West stood next to Mike Myers during a telethon for Hurricane Katrina and uttered loudly — as if there’s any other way for Kanye West — “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” The moment transformed West from budding music superstar to bonafide household name. It also made him something of a political lightning rod.

But while that moment became iconic, the follow-up to that statement is rarely talked about. Here’s why: There never really was one. West didn’t explain why he thought Bush didn’t care about black people, because, well, he didn’t have the capacity to speak in-depth about Katrina and the clear racial indignities that came from the Bush administration’s response to the natural disaster. He’d said something seismic but didn’t have the bandwidth to actually address the nuances of it.

In those days, Ye could get away with a half-cocked move like that one. It captured the national consciousness and started a dialogue. It was a different era — when the idea that disaster relief could be influenced by systemic racism seemed revelatory to many people watching the Katrina telethon. In 2005 that worked; in 2018 that shit doesn’t fly. Times have changed, and for better and worse, the requirements for social awareness have increased.

The message for Ye is clear: either put in the work or get left behind.

Take, for instance, Kanye’s tweets this week about the 13th amendment. On September 30th, Ye shared his desire to abolish the 13th amendment: “this represents good and America becoming whole again. We will no longer outsource to other countries. We build factories here in America and create jobs. We will provide jobs for all who are free from prisons as we abolish the 13th amendment. Message sent with love.”

Kanye seemed to be indicating that he wants to get rid of the 13th amendment’s ability to virtually enslave people who commit crimes in America, as brilliantly articulated in Ava Duvernay’s The 13th documentary. West, however, took the bare minimum understanding of that concept and tweeted it out. His lack of understanding led to people assuming he was trying to express a desire to bring back slavery, which is what abolishing the 13th amendment would effectively accomplish.