Infinite Grayness

Onyx Contributor:  Tim Druck (@southendtimd)
Today I read an article in which the author took issue with the public reaction to several recent public statements by one Kanye West.  The author seems to imply a certain racism is being applied to Kanye – that he is being persecuted for the imagined sin of unapologetic blackness.

Blackness.  Unapologetic.  Black and proud.

As if being a proud black man requires being disrespectful to Jesus and Mandela.  But I’m not going to debate how a Proud Black Man should behave re: the subjects of Jesus and/or Mandela.  It’ll be obvious why in just a moment.

I would like to take issue with this notion of blackness.
Who am I to question blackness? 
Not exactly what I mean.
I’d submit to you that nobody defines what it means to be black, not really – that it’s just as impossible for you to draw a circle around black as it is for me – black is infinitely varied, just like white. There is a difference, but it’s my opinion that to insinuate that there is something besides the color of one’s skin that makes one black or white is to lend credence to the false idea that blackness or whiteness, in this context, is more than the social construct that it is – assigning attributes to black or white makes them both more than simply an adjective, which is all they deserve to be.

What I mean to say by all this is that Kanye is not being black or white or indigenous or alien or any other race when he’s being arrogant, or out of line – he’s just being out of line. No person of any race is required to be anything at all, nor should they have their traits explained away by race. There are men and women of every level of humility and decency at every socioeconomic position. 

If we’re not supposed to be racist, how am I supposed to view Kanye’s behavior through the lens of blackness? The minute I do, I’m applying preconceived notions of who he is as a black man. And that’s the definition of prejudice.

The author of this article cites the acceptance of nonthreatening black men such as Barack Obama and Denzel Washington, and I would insist that the very existence of President Obama, Mr. Washington, The Smiths (both Will and James Todd), Mr. Booker of Newark, and other prominent African-American public figures would show that this idea of blackness is universal – entertainers, as different as Ice-T and LL Cool J are, are not only popular with the predominantly white audiences of their programs, but are also widely acclaimed among African-Americans. Ice Cube and Tyler Perry could hardly be more different, but both of their versions of blackness appear, at least to this admitted outsider, to be authentic and accepted as so. 

Describing Kanye West’s sins as unapologetic blackness assigns to young black men the characteristics of Kanye West – some of whom would no sooner wish to be seen through that lens of blackness as they would wish to be associated with Suge Knight, or, well, I’m not going to play the other side, as the lens of blackness doesn’t allow even a black commentator to call Robert Griffin III a cornball brother, let alone a white guy. 

Defending Kanye West’s behavior as his blackness allows racism to build on its construct – when you say “Kanye is simply acting the way an Angry Black Man acts” you are defining an excuse for hate – “Well, if they act that way, that’s why I hate them.’ ‘If he’s going to act that way, he doesn’t deserve to be in our Euro fashion club.” 

People that are intellectually lazy as racists need excuses to justify the opinions that facts do not bear out.

I do not state here that Kanye West should conform in order to conjoin, but I will state here that his behavior is not as big an excuse for hatred as the absolution of his behavior under the mantle of blackness. 

When Kanye West speaks out of turn, Kanye West is an asshole. When you say that the backlash is fear of his blackness you call every young black man an asshole, and tell the real assholes that black men should be treated as such. Because that’s how young black men act, and you should accept it. That’s blackness.

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