American social media is currently up in arms after CNN aired a political debate in which Tara Setmeyer was interviewed by Don Lemon. During her portion of the debate she called rapper and entrepreneur Kanye West, “the token negro of the Trump administration”. Bakari Sellers, another interviewee on Lemon’s show then stated, “Kanye West is what happens when Negros don’t read”.
The remarks come after a highly bizarre (even by contemporary American standards) meeting between Kanye West and Donald Trump in the Oval Office during which West said “mother fucker” just after discussing the large size of his testicles. But while West uniquely outdid Trump in terms of using profanity, the casual language that Trump has employed as President has been a hallmark of anti-elitism that in many ways is a healthy development in the United States.
Furthermore, while mainly liberal commentators are claiming that Kanye West has somehow sold out his fellow African Americans by endorsing the Republican Donald Trump, it is helpful to remember that legendary musician James Brown who co-wrote the song Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud once publicly endorsed Richard Nixon at the White House.
In this sense, while the African-American vote has typically gone to the Democratic party since the New Deal era of the 1930s (prior to that time most African-Americans voted Republican), Kanye West is by no means the first prominent African-American celebrity to endorse a controversial Republican leader.
In this sense, there is nothing racist about a positive relationship between a white Republican President and an African-American celebrity. That being said, there were deeply racist tones during the meeting but of all it was directed to Chinese and Vietnamese rather than to African-Americans like Kanye West or European-Americans like Donald Trump.
At one point in the meeting, Kanye West said,
“He has to be the freshest, the flyest, the flyest planes, the best factories. And we have to make our core be in power. We have to bring jobs into America because our best export is entertainment and ideas. But when we make everything in China and not in America, then we’re cheating on our country and we’re putting people in positions to have to do illegal things to end up in a cheapest factory ever: the prison system”.
Here we see Kanye West blaming China for the fact that the US has an overcrowded prison system. This is not only a racist remark but a patently absurd one. But West wasn’t finished heaping scorn upon Asians. Kanye West also told Donald Trump the following later in the meeting,
“So we need some prototypes here so we can get people back working, so China can’t just beat us and Vietnam can’t beat us. You got Levi’s, the greatest jeans company in the world, making their jeans in Vietnam”.
Imagine for example if a white celebrity said “we need to get white people in Alabama back working so the negros can’t just beat us and the Mexicans can’t beat us”. All of the sudden, one sees the inherent racism in these remarks – remarks that Donald Trump later agreed with.
As Trump is not one to be outdone, in a separate statement made on the same day, the US President said,
“The Chinese have lived too well for too long”.
The racist overtones of this statement clearly attest to a view that somehow an inferior but crafty Chinese race have tricked naive Americans into giving them their money, thus increasing Chinese living standards while US living standards decease. This of course is exactly what Hitler said about European Jews prior to the Holocaust.
And yet, it would appear that in a nation obsessed with looking for racism where it does not exist, America has come to accept racism against Chinese and other Asians as perfectly normal, so much so that the Trump-West barrage of Sinophobic hatred was completely ignored by mainstream and alternative American media outlets.
America like many other places has a long and blood-soaked history of racism, but while today, few Americans would endorse the enslavement of Africans and few would endorse Nazism, far too many continue to endorse the kinds of hatred against Chinese that has existed in the US since before the time of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. This is the real lesson of the Kanye West-Donald Trump meeting.