Protest sign: End the pandemic of white supremacy
A protester at the March for Justice for Breonna Taylor holds a sign that says, “End the pandemic of white supremacy” in Washington, DC on Sept. 23, 2020. Credit: Allison C Bailey / Shutterstock
JAMIL RAGLAND
JAMIL RAGLAND

White supremacy is part of the fabric of the United States. From genocide against natives, enslavement of Africans and exclusion of others from the beginning of the republic through police brutality, redlining and travel bans today, one of the most powerful impulses in American political and social activity has been the elevation of whiteness above all else – at the expense of other people. 

But here’s the thing: just as the ongoing battle for equality is sustained by people from all backgrounds, white supremacy ironically requires a diverse, mutli-ethnic coalition to maintain it. There must be people who say, “Well actually…” from the communities who are harmed the most by it. They legitimize the assumptions and stereotypes that white supremacy is built upon. And Kanye West has stepped forward to join the ranks of Black people who have hitched their personal fame and fortune to the maintenance of an oppressive, and oftentimes violent, system.

Kanye West
Kanye West is seen exiting a hotel on Sept. 3, 2016, in New York City. Credit: Liam Goodner / Shutterstock

There have always been people who collaborate with systems that are, apparently, aligned against them. Few of them have had the level of influence and resources that West commands. His success as a musician has given him a platform to say and do whatever he wants. Instead of using it to advance worthy causes (or even pointless personal ones), he has instead reinforced racial inequality while masquerading as a “free thinker.”

What someone like West offers white supremacy is the opportunity to infiltrate spaces where its typical agents are otherwise unwelcome. You would never see someone like Tucker Carlson or Marjorie Taylor-Greene on “Drink Champs” with N.O.R.E. West can move into the Black information and entertainment world with ease though, and spread white supremacist talking points on their behalf. His statement that George Floyd died from fentanyl, not Derek Chauvin kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes, is more than just a disgusting lie. It’s a premeditated strategy to undermine the foundation of the struggle for racial justice.

He can also spread messages that others cannot. His “White Lives Matter” shirt is an example of this. White supremacists have been attempting to minimize and dismiss the Black Lives Matter mantra ever since Trayvon Martin was unjustly murdered by George Zimmerman. Their tactics have had to be measured though. By deflecting to “All Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter,” white supremacists have tried to draw attention away from the legitimate complaints of Black people suffering under police brutality. 

West threw all subtlety and plausible deniability out the window with his shirt. “White Lives Matter” is the antithesis of BLM. It completely erases both the argument and the causes for why it must be said. Yet it’s a message that no white person could share without (well-deserved) allegations of racism following shortly behind. West uses his blackness to inoculate himself from that charge, even as he serves an explicitly racist agenda. It’s a service that white supremacists are thrilled to have, and they’re more than willing to parade him across Tucker Carlson’s show for two whole nights to do their dirty work for them.

White supremacy isn’t just aimed at Black people, of course. West has taken to sharing the same old tropes about Jewish people and the media as well. The predictability of West conjuring up Jewish conspiracy theories regarding his (temporary!) ban from social media would be hilariously sad if it weren’t dangerous, a kind of banality of the ego that repeats talking points used to justify some of the most heinous crimes in history.

As harmful as he’s been, it would be one thing if he stayed in the realm of hateful rhetoric. But with the purchase of Parler, a right-wing social media platform that hosted racist, violent content and planning for the January 6th riots, he has literally put his money where his mouth is. It’s no coincidence that Candace Owen, a fellow traveler when it comes to justifying white supremacy, is involved in the purchase. Her husband is the CEO of Parler. Perhaps this is just another cynical money-making attempt, like West’s bogus church or his bogus school. Even if it is, West has now invested significant money into sustaining the digital infrastructure of white supremacy. 

We have to recognize the unique challenge that a Black billionaire presents to the ongoing struggle for equality. Too many people are too quick to dismiss West’s behavior as a symptom of his mental health. I’m not a doctor; I have no idea if West is having difficulties or not. That doesn’t excuse his hateful language, which has been consistent ever since he met the former President in Trump Towers. It also doesn’t excuse business decisions he’s made. It’s time to recognize West for what he is: a double agent working for white supremacists.

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Jamil Ragland

Jamil Ragland writes and lives in East Hartford. You can read more of his writing at www.nutmeggerdaily.com.

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