This is a really great essay from Heben Nigatu, “In defense of Kanye’s vanity: the politics of black self-love”:
To assert that, despite the boundaries of a racist world that strangles your very view of what is possible, you are still going to be out here stuntin’ on everyone, that you will love yourself and love yourself excessively, is powerful beyond measure. And as many black artists have said before, for black folks to love themselves is a political act. The poet Audre Lorde captures it best: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” Kanye’s “vanity” is meant to be inspiring; it is not a mindless arrogance but it is pointed and intentional. One of the most compelling things he says in his Times interview is that he views his work, in some ways, as an extension of the fight for justice of the activists and artists who came before him. In their traditions but also in his own way, he is fighting for justice: “I’m going to use my platform to tell people that they’re not being fair… Justice. And when you say justice, it doesn’t have to be war. Justice could just be clearing a path for people to dream properly.”
The ridiculing of Kanye West and the ways in which we so gleefully misunderstand him was particularly evident in the response to that moment of West’s when he told live US television that George Bush doesn’t care about black people. This brief discussion of that moment is spot on, and it comes via the amazing Guerilla Mama Medicine :
you know what, i had to go back and rewatch the whole segment because i was failing to remember the context too
you can see how nervous he is
you can see that it’s not something he was excited to say but you can see that he felt like he could not forgive himself if he had just read the teleprompter and gone home without talking about it
i can’t believe that this is something people call kanye an asshole for, something people find ridiculous and hilarious
And how good is Kanye West’s Black Skinhead?