Kanye West is no stranger to being criticized by the media. Given the artist’s immense popularity, it’s difficult for him to be ignored and to avoid public scrutiny. From his commentary on complicated issues to releasing new music to manic outbursts of random thoughts and ideas that rarely result in a fully formed product to making in some cases harmfully misguided claims, Kanye can’t escape being constantly blasted by the media.
His political aspirations are no exception to this. Despite mostly everyone knowing he had no chance of winning, Kanye continuously claimed that he would be the 46th president. Kanye’s political ideas mainly revolve around his opposition to abortion, calls for prison reform, race issues, and making America overall more religious. The question remains: was Kanye’s running for president just another manic energy outburst fueled by pride and his love of attention, or is there substance behind his concepts (regardless of how disagreeable they may be)?
Kanye’s undoubtedly most criticized idea during his campaign was his opposition to abortion. Although the idea of being pro-life isn’t unheard of in America, Kanye’s views regarding it are much more complex and complicated than what one might assume. The roots of his being against abortion can be traced to the civil rights movement. In addition, throughout history, many black Americans opposed abortion and birth control. The Black Panther Party in the late 1960s and 1970s viewed abortion as a device intended to weaken black families and communities, which would hence curb their progress toward equality amongst black and white Americans.
Throughout the 20th century and across the United States there have been tens of thousands of examples of forced and involuntary sterilizations of women and men of color. NPR reported that “as many as 70,00 Americans were forcibly sterilized during the 20th century.” These sterilizations came after the U.S. Supreme Court “decided by vote of 8 to 1, to uphold a state’s right to forcibly sterilize a person.”
Furthermore, Cecil B. Moore as the head of Philadelphia’s NAACP chapter throughout the 60s and 70s spoke out against abortion as well. During a meeting of the Council of Philadelphia Anti-Poverty Action Committee in 1965, Moore condemned a Planned Parenthood program for northern Philadelphia as around 70 percent of the population was black at the time. Moore termed their plan as “replete with everything to help the Negroes commit racial suicide,” as he attempted to convince the committee to oppose the proposal with him.
Kanye blatantly views contraception to be an extinguisher to raising a family. With Kanye being a dedicated Christian, one of his major beliefs is that family is ultimately both natural and good. As a black nationalist, this understanding is completed and supported by the idea that strong black families will eventually lead to black liberation.
Whether or not access to an abortion weakens or strengthens black families is clearly up for debate, and abortion itself remains one of the most controversial topics in America to this day. It can be concluded that Kanye’s political commitments regarding abortion are neither the result of a manic episode, nor arrogant ignorance, but old-fashioned in modern discourse and to an extent, harmful. Aside from him running for president under ‘The Birthday Party, in no way are his beliefs historically unsubstantiated.
Despite what many claim, Kanye is not an idiot. Throughout his career, starting as early as his release of The College Dropout in 2004, he has preached black empowerment. Lyrics on the track “All Falls Down” warn against an obsession with material goods: “We shine because they hate us, floss ’cause they degrade us. We tryna buy back our 40 acres. And for that paper, look how low we’ll stoop.”
In West’s opinion, black hip-hop culture’s obsession over opulence is, to an extent, internalized racism arising from several different interlocking phenomena. West’s mention of “40 acres” is a reference to the forty acres of land that slaves were to be granted upon their freedom. For most, this land never materialized. Black Americans were left landless, poor, and, by proxy, bereft of agency.
As Kanye West interprets the matter in “All Falls Down,” black Americans eventually turned to consumption in an attempt to prove their black worth. However, in a cruel twist, the purchases by which they hoped to prove their worth and “floss” their wealth, benefit white capital as the “white man gets paid off of all of that.” West believes that white capitalism profits from black consumption, which is itself a doomed attempt to claw back dignity from white America.
In short, present-day, anti-abortion, pro-family, artist, designer, bipolar, producer, and entrepreneur Kanye West has been ruminating about his running for the presidency for the past 15 years, at least.
His black nationalist view toward economics is practically taken from Malcolm X’s “The Ballot Over the Bullet” speech in which he proclaimed that “the economic philosophy of black nationalism is pure and simple. It only means that we should control the economy of our community… Why should the economy of our community be in the hands of a white man?”
Kanye, an entrepreneur himself, supports the concept of a black-owned economy as well. He has claimed that he will return all of the production of his clothes for his brand Yeezy to the United States by 2021 and hire former prisoners to work in his factories. He wants to strengthen black communities. Kanye has also claimed that he would like to end the 13th Amendment and, in doing this, return the slaves their promised forty acres.
Given Kanye’s substantial position on economics as a black nationalist, we ask, is it now so hard to believe that his opinion on family could come from the same place? His view on economics has been developing for as long as he’s been an entrepreneur which has pretty much been the entirety of his adult life.
But only in recent years has he become a ‘family man’ and developed concern regarding the good of the family unit as strong as his concern for the good of the economy. It should be noted that in saying this, we are not trying to proclaim that Kanye’s positions on family are good or constructive; as a matter of fact, we believe that they aren’t.
However, what we are saying is that it makes sense why his opinions on abortion would be informed by the same source as his opinion on economics and black liberation. After all, both of his parents were known black nationalists with beliefs in the same vein as his own. Kanye’s own mother had been arrested at the age of six during a sit-in at a segregated restaurant in Oklahoma City.
In a more recent speech, Kanye revealed his own personal reason for opposing abortion. His father had initially wanted to abort him, but his mother saved his life by refusing to abort the now successful artist. Kanye further opened up about how when he found out his then-girlfriend (now ex-wife), Kim Kardashian, was pregnant with their first child, North, Kanye originally wanted Kim to abort the pregnancy.
But after Kanye had a vision from God, he called Kim and told her they must keep their child. And so they did. One might assume that Kanye decided against aborting their child because he had the epiphany that their child might have the potential to change the world as much as he has in his lifetime. This is a common argument for many pro-life and anti-abortionists; however, the logistics of this argument are severely flawed.
Kanye’s political views are strongly motivated by his deep religiosity. Within his 10 Point Policy Agenda, Kanye provides a Bible verse for each point. Kanye’s reasoning for being against capital punishment is because of The Bible. Kanye cites one of the 10 commandments, “Thou shalt not kill.”
Kanye raised his concerns with the COVID-19 vaccine calling it “the mark of the beast.” When asked about how he would address the virus, Kanye suggested people pray and “stop doing things that make God mad.” Kanye takes a radical stance in that he believes that it was a mistake to separate religion from education in the public school system. He even went on to say that removing prayer from schools was a plot by the devil that increased the suicide rates among children and murder rates in Chicago.
The very first item on Kanye’s agenda, listed on his campaign site, is “Restore faith and revive our constitutional commitment to freedom of religion and the free exercise of one’s faith, demonstrated by restoring prayer in the classroom including spiritual foundations.”
The second point on his platform is to “restore the sound national economy [and] reduce household debt and student loan debt.”
Kanye offers no plan on how to achieve these things and rather opts to include an additional Bible verse, “God has plans to give us hope and a future.”
If the Bible verse is an indication of how Kanye planned on addressing the issues at hand, then it would be a concerning situation seeing as Kanye would rather give Biblical references rather than an actual concrete plan of how he plans on achieving his goals. In fact, none of the ten points under his ‘presidential platform’ have any means of how West plans to achieve his aspirations. Kanye’s political and religious views are so intertwined it becomes evident that there is very little substance behind his political concepts beyond religion.
Not to mention that many of Kanye’s statements can be classified as downright confusing and serve as signs of the fact that while his platform may not be fueled by mental illness, his bout of public appearances certainly is.
During his rally in Charleston, South Carolina Kanye suggested a replacement for Plan B: Plan A. He claimed that instead of making abortion illegal, he would like to offer $50,000 per year to single mothers. He explained that while it takes a village to raise a child, society has been set up for single mothers to never have a village.
His rally and the points he made in it were actually agreeable until he suggested that Israel and Africa pay for the program and that maybe instead of $50,000 single mothers should actually get “one million dollars… or something.” Kanye exponentially worked himself into a fury. He began to denounce corporations like the NBA, Universal Music, Adidas, and Gap for not having enough black board members and executives.
He then diverged from that point into a god-fearing old testament-themed rant about demons and truth. He even said that Planned Parenthood was founded by a white supremacist…which is actually true. Margaret Sanger, Planned Parenthood’s founder, was a lifelong proponent of eugenics, and only after Kanye’s rally in South Carolina did the organization pull her name from their Manhattan Health Center. (It should be noted that Planned Parenthood has acknowledged her disturbing legacy many times over the years.)
When Kanye announced his run for the presidency, he was supported by some of his fans and sneered at by many, but most others wondered if he was even serious (a question still unanswered). But one thing is certain: his positions of substance that Kanye does hold have appealed to Americans on both the left and right sides of the political spectrum.
Appealing to the Republican party, he advocated for gun rights, the importance of family, pro-life values, and the liberating power of owning property. Meanwhile, on the left side of the compass, he has made an appeal for an end to police brutality, mass incarceration, and the death penalty.
He admires socialist politicians and evangelical preachers alike. Essentially Kanye believes that in order to move forward, the country must be more progressive and the family should be more conservative. Whether you find yourself disagreeing with Kanye’s views on several levels, he definitely has a potent combination of beliefs.
In the end, it was made abundantly clear that Kanye had not been in the proper mental state to serve as an elected official, and many believe he may never be able to serve a country. Kanye has declared slavery a choice and that he loves Candace Owens, one of American politics’ most malevolently ignorant personalities. He initially claimed to promote and support former president Donald Trump, but later said he never liked him in the first place.
While Kanye’s politics are full of missteps and holes that range from passively ignorant to downright wrong, he should have the right to express himself because much of what he says is not just ‘made up.’ His thoughts originate from somewhere, whether they be from his parents, religion, or some other source.
And although these thoughts may be outdated to most of us, he has a right to state his beliefs without them being blamed on his being bipolar or mentally ill.
In fact, the story of Kanye West and his presidency is far larger than a look inside West, but rather a look into how America addresses mental health. For many, Kanye is crazy—so crazy that even when we witness him doing something as simple as following the footsteps of what his Black Panther parents believed just a few decades ago, we instantly perceive Kanye’s thoughts and actions as off the wall.
Knowing him best, his then-wife Kim Kardashian said, “We as a society talk about giving grace to the issue of mental health as a whole…however we should also give it to the individuals who are living with it in times when they need it most.”