Last week Kanye West released his latest solo album (if we can call if that), Ye, on iTunes and on all streaming platforms. This past Friday he dropped his second project in as many weeks; a co-album called Kids See Ghosts with fellow G.O.O.D Music artist, Kid Cudi. Just like that, with 2 albums, 15 tracks, and zero apologies, everyone forgot. Everyone forgot that less than two months ago Kanye stepped out in public wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat signed by Trump, professed his undying love and support for the President, and spewed racially treacherous ignorance on TMZ. Everyone forgot that Kanye has yet to back off of his stance on the President, and has even gone as far as to say he would like Trump to be godfather to his child. Kanye is an influencer of massive reach, capable of impacting the votes of millions of young, ignorant, or otherwise impressionable fans. Though he once used that platform for the betterment of his community, he now uses his power to stand by the most dangerous, corrupt, racially hostile and authoritarian man who has ever sat in the Oval Office. As an angry and concerned American, more importantly as a Latino, I will never forgive that.
I have loved Kanye West for fourteen years, literally half of my life. When I first heard the song “Jesus Walks” I was a good Catholic boy and a high school freshman, just beginning to learn what great music was. Kanye shaped my artistic interests, taught me about music and fashion, taught me what is was to be cool, to be original and unapologetic. When Graduation dropped I was sixteen, an angsty high school junior with a car and a few bucks. I drove around listening to that album so much that I ruined the CD and had to buy a new one. In college, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy showed me that hip hop was a genre with limitless artistic potential. I still believe that MBDTF is perhaps the greatest album ever made… ever.
Needless to say, over the years I have had to turn a blind eye to a number of outrageous “Kanyeisms”. I have defended the man to countless friends and acquaintances, mostly white people with a limited understanding of hip hop as a culture and an even more limited understanding of Kanye’s contributions to that culture. I have long accepted his outbursts and shocking public behavior as the actions of an artistic genius not bound by normal social inhibitions, nor by the judgment of others. His actions were at times questionable, his arrogance legendary, his tact nonexistent, but the old Kanye was anything but problematic. In fact his earliest public faux pas, the infamous George Bush comment, was made in defiant support of people of color who at the time were suffering the lasting effects of hurricane Katrina.
So many of Kanye’s past controversies were in fact the result of his outspoken support of POC. Many of his early rants and outbursts were in response to the issues plaguing the Black community and marginalized communities in general. This truth, above all else, makes his transition to alt-right icon so unbearable to those fans who have followed and supported his career for over a decade. Those who stood in line for CD’s, tickets, and clothing. Those who memorized entire albums front to back and saved up months for a pair of $900 sneakers. In the context of Donald Trump, it is especially unbearable for Kanye’s long time Latino fans.
Donald Trump is a fucking blowhard. He is offensive and boorish, disrespectful to nearly all human beings outside of white protestant American males. His impact on the Latino community, however, has been immeasurably traumatic. Trump’s rhetoric on Latino immigrants is more than rhetoric. It has manifested into real executive action. His impact on the enforcement practices of ICE has been well documented and felt by nearly every Latino-American family in the United States. Ask any Latino you know, odds are they know someone who has been, or is at risk of being deported under the Trump Administration.
I personally know of two families currently being torn apart by deportation. Long term, gainfully employed tax payers and residents of the United States who have been forcibly sent back to a country they have not called home for nearly twenty years. Children who will not be able to see their parents for years. Lives irreproachably damaged by racism and nationalist fear mongering. This is the legacy of Donald Trump. This is the wave of spiteful white racism that has returned to plague American society after decades of dormancy. It is the ideology to which Kanye West has aligned himself. To which all of Kanye’s remaining fans indirectly align themselves when they stream his music and forget what he did.
As much as it pains me to say this, fuck Kanye West. There are some things in this life that are unforgivable. Some wounds that will never heal. The Trump presidency is a stain on the American identity that may never be removed. It has brought to light ideological fractures in our national fabric so deep they will likely never be repaired. In these times of ideological warfare, when real lives are being burned to the ground in the name of white supremacy and ethnic cleansing, I will not bend in my undying hatred of Donald Trump and the right-wing mechanisms that got him elected. I will not make excuses or exceptions for anyone, not friends, not family, not an artist who has been a meaningful part of my life for nearly fifteen years. I will abide by the words of my literary and cultural elder statesman, Shea Serrano. “Fuck Donald Trump and anyone who stands with him.” Period.