In one aspect Kim and Kanye represent the future of America in a truly post racial society. Where we identify by our cultural heritage and not the color of our skin. The Kardashian-West children are biracial children born of African American and Armenian American decent. Their “variations of a skin tone” are a glimpse into a world free of hatred and preconceived connotations. During the ramp up of the 2016 New York Fashion Week, Yeezy Season 4 premiere, Kanye caught a lot of heat for doing a "multicultural women only" model call. Whether you feel the use of the word “multicultural” was a slight against Dark complexioned women or just a chance to observe our definitions of what holding multiple cultures at home mean, it got people talking. It is fair to note, that since its inception Yeezy Season has featured models of all shades. Even still with this fact, it’s safe to say Kanye West has a polarizing effect on pop culture.
Kanye West’s polarizing characteristic are synonymous with his career. His ultra-high confidence, political views and incomparable talent make it so. We’ve seen enough interview reactions and think pieces to start a small library. The lack of conversation seems to center around the nearly 5-year marriage of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian and what effect that has had on the community who loved Kanye first.
Kanye represents a legacy of artists who grew to popularity in the Black community and later became larger than life. Garnering fans from across the globe, he no longer belongs to just us. It is no longer ok for Kanye to make statements like “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people.” He has to represent all his fans, all their pain, and all their struggles. It is a burdensome position for any person to be in. While the majority of his fans understand it, Black women have a hard time accepting this from Kanye.
His change in rhetoric can be greatly attributed to his marriage. Kanye has the golden touch, and many Black women feel that the man who said “And when he gets on he’ll leave your ass for a White girl” should’ve blessed someone other than Kim Kardashian with it. Kim’s rise to fame can easily be attributed to Black men. From the notorious Ray J co-starring sex tape, to Kanye West rolling out the red carpet into the world of fashion elites for her. Yes, Kim was a reality star with her own money and seasons of success before Kanye, but she was nowhere near being the pop culture icon we see today.
In 2012, after the couple became public, KUWTK aired an episode featuring Kim, Kanye, and stylist Renelou Padora throwing away the bulk of Kim’s closet. She reluctantly let go of her wardrobe and former style at the advice of Renelou and Kanye. He rebranded Kim into fashion royalty. Herein lies the problem.
Kanye is singlehandedly responsible for the appropriation of the aesthetic and beauty of Black women from various backgrounds but primarily Black women in the hood. There has not been a single “hood Black girl” trend that the Kardashian’s haven’t adopted as their own. While Kanye has never publically addressed the appropriation issue, he has also never publically condemned it either. He is the direct connection into our world. Teyana’s starring role in the Fade music video is the first time we’ve seen Kanye center Black women in his art since his marriage to Kim. When Black women call Kanye West out, celebrities included, it is met with a sea of Black men rebutting against them, saying who he chooses to love or marry should not be our concern. That it is hateful and in opposition to a better future where racial identity doesn’t matter more than cultural identity.
Black women want to see Black men condemn Kanye for abandoning Black women, but it’s not going to happen. Black women are the only ones who identify the issue. We are the only ones who see Kanye’s creative genius as an inequitable exchange for his actions or inaction. In the wake of racialized violence and widespread White Supremacist ideology, Kim Kardashian took to the internet to tell Black women and Black queer men, to “get over” the racist rhetoric of YouTube beauty guru Jeffree Star. Adding another stat to an already extensive list of cultural missteps perpetuated by the Kardashian/Jenner clan.
We want to believe that marriage is more important than politics, that art is more important than mistakes, and that two people with different cultural backgrounds can be united in the name of love. Through that union much will be sacrificed, but Kim has not sacrificed any part of her world or her message. In 2015, the couple took a highly publicized trip to Armenia, to bring attention to the Armenian genocide, which took place between 1914-1923 and took the lives of 1.5 million Armenians. Kim Kardashian-West even took out a full page ad in the New York Times to write about it. On the other hand, Kanye has been preaching a message of unity and coming together. He no longer speaks about the injustice of Black Americans but instead the benefits of multiculturalism, even going as far to meet with Donald Trump following a highly controversial Presidential win, to discuss these ideals.
In all honesty, I love Kanye West. His contributions to the art world are endless and its always exciting to see what he will create. But in recent years I’ve grown disenchanted with Kanye the person, the icon. He seems to be lost in the curse of Hollywood stardom, where fame is more sought after than integrity. As a Black woman I don’t feel as loved as I once did by Kanye. The All Falls Down music video seems like a shell of both Kanye and Stacy Dash. It leaves me scratching my head and wondering how the same Kanye who promised Mr. Rainey that he was gonna marry his daughter, and who loved his mother more than any words could articulate, would be so far away from the man that told the truth about America post Katrina. I look at Kanye’s line on Gold Digger as a premonition of the future. The ultimate goal of Mr. West. I’m neither surprised nor offended by him and Kris Jenner’s dedication to Kim Kardashian’s manufactured identity. I can wish for the old Kanye, but he will never be that person again. It is selfish to hold him to a standard he can no longer meet. Instead I wish that future Kanye remembers his origins, that he was born to a Black woman who was arrested at a sit in at age 5, and whose blood he claimed destined him for greatness. Keep changing the world Kanye, but don’t forget about the ones you started with.