September 6, 2005
I just jotted down some quick thoughts to my Kanye West post, and I'll repost them here below the cut, in case that now-humongous thread is too hard to load.
1. Kanye couldn't have chosen a better time to say what he said. The right time to speak is whenever people are listening. If anyone was truly callous enough to use his comments as an excuse not to help dying people, I'm hard-pressed to see how you call Kanye the bad guy in that scenario.
And do you really think it matters, from a charity standpoint, what the celebrities actually say on these shows? That they're expected to win you over with the eloquence of their pleas? The celebrity's job is to put a celebrity face on the screen so people will watch the show and see the phone number.. Kanye's 15 seconds off the screen did nothing to impede that process, and he gave voice to the outrage many Americans are feeling right now, helped to spark much needed discussion on it. Plus brought the event far more publicity than it would have had otherwise. He did his job and then some.
2. Many are taking Kanye's last comment to mean that he thinks Bush deliberately conspired to leave Black people behind, that he saw Black people waiting for help and held it back because they were Black. But that is missing the point.
He didn't say George Bush hates Black people, he said Bush doesn't care about Black people. And it is ABUNDANTLY clear that those in charge of planning for this disaster, from the Federal government on down, DID NOT CARE about an entire segment of the New Orleans population. The poorest twenty percent of New Orleans were INVISIBLE to the powers that be, as they planned for this disaster, and they enacted a plan that FORGOT THEM COMPLETELY, abandoned them and left them for dead.
The government showed without a shred of doubt, through their actions and inaction, that they DID NOT CARE about these people. And yes, the vast majority of these people were Black.
Should we dismiss that as a coincidence? Could Kanye have been more precise by stating that America doesn't care about poor people? Maybe. Class and race are always intertwined in these issues, so deeply we could spend a lifetime sorting them out. But the basic truth behind Kanye's rage is clear as ray of sunshine.
This is not about George Bush, the individual, seeing that Black people were stranded and holding back help because they were Black. It runs much deeper than that. George Bush didn't hate these people, he and his government forgot them, and that happened long before the levees broke.
George Bush is at the head of a government that has abandoned and forgotten this segment of our society on every level, throughout the planning for this disaster, and for decades before that. This is the culmination of decades of America not caring. The only shocking thing about Kanye's words is that anyone is surprised by them.