As an underage college freshman, I was forced to live in an off-campus dormitory with adult supervision. Although I was one of only two black residents in the housing unit, one of the selling points of living in this dorm was their monthly offerings of entertainment as an alternative to college drunkfests.
In one particular month, the building’s entertainment committee booked a magician/hypnotist to entertain the residents. Halfway through his show, the hypnotist asked for more volunteers.
I had already seen the hypnotist put audience members into a trance. The audience howled as one male audience member screamed as he gave birth to a teddy bear. The magician yelled “Stiff!” until he was able to lay another girl across two chairs and stand on her stiffened body. When he suggested I join him onstage, everyone turned to me to see if I was willing to play along.
“Nah, homie,” I said (it was the ’90s—don’t judge me). “I have enough white voices in my head already.” The audience giggled, and he moved on.
On Friday, the right-wing youth organization Turning Points USA held a discussion at the University of California, Los Angeles featuring Candace Owens, an articulate black woman firmly embedded in the ideology of respectability politics, conservatism and self-hate. When Black Lives Matter activists interrupted the discussion, Owens descended back into her sunken-place-sponsored hypnosis and berated the protesters.
“Obviously we have some black people who are shouting in the back. We have some black people who are sitting in the front quietly,” explained the apologetically black Owens. “What is happening right now in the black community, you’re going to hear it in this room first.”
There is an ideological civil war happening: Black people that are focused on their past and shouting about slavery and black people that are focused on their futures, OK? That’s really what it comes down to, OK?
I can guarantee what you’re seeing happening is victim mentality versus victor mentality ... Victim mentality is not cool. I don’t know why people like being oppressed. It’s the weirdest thing I ever heard: “I love oppression. We’re oppressed. 400 years of slavery, Jim Crow.” Which, by the way, none of you guys lived through. Your grandparents did.
And it’s embarrassing that you utilize their history, you utilize their history and you come in here with more emotion than they ever had when they were living through it. You’re not living through anything right now. You’re overly privileged Americans.
After video of the tweet went viral, Kanye West, the hip-hop genius who—in the greatest example of irony in recorded history—left his ex for a surgically enhanced woman of colonizing descent after rapping about fuckboys who “get on” and leave their black girlfriends for white girls, tweeted his love for Owens.
While media outlets singled out the above tweet, many failed to include Yeezy’s subsequent tweets from the sunken place explaining himself:
I could write for hours about the paradox of Kanye West.
I could easily dissect the music of the man I consider the first real genius of the hip-hop genre. I could rationalize why I separate his unparalleled artistry from his recurring fuckboyish ways. Explaining how Yeezy could simultaneously be a musical prodigy and a steaming pile of excrement clothed in homeless attire rebranded as haute couture fashion requires little effort.
Those facts converge but don’t necessarily preclude one another. Kanye is likely a tortured genius and an infantilized, tantrum-throwing, self-important dick wad who has been deluded—by himself and through osmosis via the Kardashian clan—that he is a truth-telling prophet. As we have seen with Killer Mike’s public fellating of the National Rifle Association, artistic excellence and the crowdsourced hypnosis of self-importance are not mutually exclusive.
But as your newsfeed becomes inundated with Yeezy think pieces, it is important to examine the underlying discussion that prompted this controversy: namely, the idea that by playing the “oppression card,” black people have relegated themselves to a perpetual state of self-victimization.
Black people have heard this before.
“Why must you always play the victim?” is a recurring question that conservatives pose to any black person bold enough to point out injustice or inequality. The notion that people of color would rather wallow in their own oppression than pull themselves up by their mythical bootstraps is a right-wing method of dismissing one essential reality necessary to understanding the plight of black people in America:
White people did this.
When it comes to their own status, conservatives are willing to accept the role that history plays in almost every political, social or economic issue as long as it doesn’t cast aspersion on the majority class. The entire premise of the argument for conservatism is rooted in the historical idea that everyone who came to this country (except for the descendants of African slaves) came here to escape oppression and fight for their own freedom.
They advocate for the rule of law and order based on the legal precedent of the past. They lobby for the right to own guns as a method of keeping a tyrannical government at bay. They masturbate to the memory of the Confederacy, lamenting the demonization of their slave-owning ancestors. They even hail Martin Luther King Jr. as a hero while conveniently forgetting the part that white people played in the system he fought against.
Apparently, history is for white people.
When black people explain how segregation, Jim Crow and the history of racial injustice contribute to systematic inequality, they tell us to quit crying. Yet an astonishing 39 percent of Americans, including most white people (55 percent), feel that white Americans face discrimination, according to a September 2017 poll by Harvard and NPR.
The oppression of the white working class is bandied about as the reason America is led by a neo-Nazi apricot, but black people are wallowing in self-pity when they point out income inequality, employment gaps or disparities in education funding. These people declare “reverse racism” while dismissing any claim of racism as whining.
Economists at the Federal Reserve of San Francisco report that black men earn about 70 percent of the salary of white men, while black women earn about 63 cents for every dollar a white man earns. That is a fact, not an opinion borne by self-pity and “constantly bringing up the past,” as Ye’s tweets would have you believe.
According to the Washington Post’s police-shooting database, 778 African Americans have been shot and killed by police officers since 2015. Over the same amount of time, 96 American civilians have been killed by Islamic extremists in the U.S.
Yet Candace Owens and Kanye would have you believe that Black Lives Matter protesters who keep “bringing up the past” are displaying a “victim mentality.” Even though they have a blind spot as big as their egos, the conservative ethos also omits one important fact:
For the most part, black people agree with them!
Every black activist eagerly points to education and hard work when they are asked what black people should be doing. There isn’t a single figure on the left who believes that family values aren’t important. No one tells black people to forget about hard work and just blame white people.
Black people are as tired of crime and violence as Tucker Carlson and Tomi Lahren. But when it comes to inequality, there is only one group of people who can eliminate the underlying white supremacy that is woven into American society: white people.
Kanye and Owens are willing to distance themselves from black people because they have become addicted to the hypnotizing effects of the white gaze. They have been bamboozled into believing that all of the problems in the black community are caused by the shiftless Negroes who would rather flounder in self-pity than pull themselves up by their bootstraps.
But they never mention the ones who snipped our bootstraps short. They refuse to acknowledge the reality that some people never had bootstraps to begin with. Pointing out that black people are bootstrapless isn’t asking for a handout or playing the victim. It’s a fact.
But Owens and West have been glamoured by right-wing vampires into believing their bullshit. Either they are delusional or they earned their Ph.D.s from the history, sociology and political science departments at the University of the Sunken Place.
Owens is probably lost forever, but hopefully someone will flash a light in Yeezy’s eyes and those white voices in his head will suddenly disappear. Until then, he will remain a talented but tragic example of the power of hypnosis.
May Kanye’s and Owens’ delusion serve as a warning. Do not listen to the white voices or you might find yourself getting very sleepy.