When Kanye West took to the stage of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History on Monday, he gave a speech that covered everything from his own ego to discussing why The Matrix was the best movie of all time. Unfortunately, the hip hop star also served as a prime example of what happens when people believe the success of a handful of Black people equates to equality for the entire community.
According to Mr. West, racism is no longer a problem in America.
As the nation continues chanting “Black lives matter” in the midst of a seemingly unending stream of Black people being killed by law enforcement, as Black communities continue to be plagued with health issues after government funding allows environmentally hazardous projects to ruin the environment around their homes, as Black students struggle to receive the quality education they need because government funding is failing schools in predominantly Black neighborhoods, as the school-to-prison pipeline continues snatching many young Black hopefuls before they even have the chance to graduate, as the Black community bears the brunt of historic wealth inequality, West has deemed racism in America a problem of the past.
“This is a generation that is far less racist,” he proclaimed despite reports like the one from Al Jazeera suggesting that is actually a myth. “Yes, small remnants remain of even thinking of calling something of a racial slur…That idea (racism), has passed.”
West suggested that the success of artists like Beyonce and the election of the nation’s first Black president is evidence enough that racism is no longer a problem in America.
“We’ve had The Cosby Show, Obama’s president, Beyonce’s great…that’s passed,” he added.
Instead, West insisted that the real enemy is classism and the growing divide between the wealthy and poor in America.
“But there’s still something you’re taught every day, especially in the UK, and that’s division by class,” West continued. “Our main focus, in my opinion…Imagine a world with no war, and imagine if everyone’s main focus, more so than going out to a club, their main focus was to help someone else.”
It’s certainly not a new claim from the hip hop star as it’s the type of misleading message that he has been repeating for years.
During an interview on Wild 94.9’s The JV Show in 2013, Kanye shared the same sentiments.
“It’s about class and it was a classist move that even when you get invited to certain dinner parties, or even when you’re in certain magazines, it’s still a Dinner With Schmucks situation,” he said at the time. “Are they inviting you to be a part of what you’re doing or are they inviting you to laugh at your teeth? And ask you a million questions like, ‘Oh, those are cool teeth. What’s that?’ … It’s not about racism anymore. It’s classism. Like Paula Deen, she was old school with it. They like, ‘We don’t do it like that anymore, that’s racist. We classist now.’ “
It’s a dramatic change from the rapper who once boldly proclaimed that George Bush didn’t care about Black people in the midst of the Hurricane Katrina aftermath.
While nobody would deny the fact that the wealth divide in America is a growing problem, to proclaim racism as an irrelevant issue would not only be ignoring the plight that the Black community faces today but it would also be ignoring the fact that in many ways racism lies at the foundation of America’s growing wealth gap.
The racial wealth inequality gap has been on a steady incline as government policies and systemic racism has kept Black citizens trapped in poverty without any hopes of reaching middle class status, never mind reaching the top 1 percent that the hip hop mogul makes business deals with on a regular basis.
The reality is that many Black stars become disconnected from issues of racism once they attain a certain level of celebrity status.
So while racism may seem to be a problem of the past for the man who has graced many stages for both his music and fashion-related endeavors, members of the Black community, regardless of income, who have not achieved fame at stratospheric levels, are finding it hard to believe that racism isn’t still an issue when they are constantly exposed to it and its consequences.