XOTV WEEKLY: The “Check and Balance” System for the Black Vote
Kanye West broke out in tears as he spoke to a sizeable crowd about his anti-abortion stance. At his presidential campaign rally last month, the rapper and producer told the story of how two women’s decisions to not terminate their pregnancy changed his life. West said that the robbery of his wife, Kim Kardashian West pushed them to have his 7-year-old daughter, North West.
"I almost killed my daughter," said West.
He also recalled that his mother’s decision to keep her child despite the financial pressures of being a single mom led to his birth. Instead of “Plan B,” the emergency contraceptive, West proposed, “Plan A”: giving mothers financial support that ranged anywhere from $50,000 to $1 million per year to support their children.
Ever since West kicked off his presidential campaign on July 4, he has been the object of both scorn and admiration by politicians and celebrities alike. The Chicago native has been a lightning rod for controversial opinions since he remarked that, “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people,” during a live broadcast of NBCUniversal’s Hurricane Katrina Relief concert in 2005. Recently, he’s been singing an entirely different song to the tune of Make America Great Again. West declared his support for Trump in 2016 and has since, come under fire for calling slavery “a choice” and making disparaging comments about African-American abolitionist Harriet Tubman.
Despite filing his statement of candidacy on July 16th, it is currently unknown if West is still seriously considering running for the presidential race. He has filed to be on the ballot in some states and not in others and said he might run again in 2024.
“#2020VISION or maybe ‘24," tweeted West on July 21. “I guess all black people supposed to vote on Biden?”
Ironically, a month before West’s tweet, former vice-president Joe Biden received criticism for stating that Black people who don’t vote for him “ain’t Black” on the popular radio show The Breakfast Club. West has become a political iconoclast because American politics has a call-and-response with the Black vote.
The United States has a long-standing relationship with policing blackness for white gain since the nation’s genesis. The three-fifths compromise made at the 1787 United States Constitutional Convention ensured that only three out of every five enslaved people would be counted as people by the government for legislative representation and taxation purposes. It gave Southern states more seats in Congress and more electoral votes in proportion to its counting of enslaved populations. Now that Black people are enfranchised, if we ignore voter suppression, there is no three-fifths compromise to account for them. Instead, there is a ritual of emotional blackmail by white presidential candidates for “the Black vote.” White politicians are harping on the “Black vote” to ensure that there is an active system of “checks and balances” for the Black community’s social capital.
Trump was more than elated when Black cultural icon, West, declared his support for his presidential bid in 2016. Trump even invited him to the White House, where they talked about topics ranging from prison reform to gun control. Biden was eager to racialize voters in alignment with the support of his campaign on that radio show, and more recently with his historic pick for VP, Kamala Harris, the first woman of color nominated for this position.
Trump and Biden may be on opposite sides of the political spectrum, but they both have controversial methods of engaging with their Black demographic. Trump has a platinum-selling rapper and Candace Owens, and Biden has Barack Obama and white liberals.
After his South Carolina rally, West tweeted cryptic and otherwise concerning messages, prompting a polarizing media response where some users made memes from his comments while others made #PrayforYe a trending Twitter topic. Since West’s bizarre political inclinations, people have felt the need to link his political opinions to his bipolar disorder diagnosis, which the star has candidly discussed over the years. The various iterations of “consider West’s mental health when hearing his political views” seems like a socially appropriate method of trying to legitimize his blackness in the public eye. What other explanation could there be for a Black Trump supporter besides mental illness?
American culture has given us an approved system of checks and balances for blackness to fit whatever is on the agenda for white supremacy. It is through the constant gaslighting of Black people and the gatekeeping of their humanity that American society thrives. Since Biden declared his running mate, several Black activists have already spoken out against non-black Democrats pressuring the Black community to accept Harris based on her background, stating that her tough-on-crime approach as California’s former attorney general harmed marginalized communities. And just as many newsrooms have already started producing think pieces on how Harris could influence the Black vote.
“Representation without accountability is dangerous,” wrote Raquel Willis, a Black trans organizer and activist mere minutes after tweeting about Kamala Harris being on the ballot. “Cue the non-Black folks telling Black folks how to feel about this moment.”
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About the Author:
Jendayi is a Caribbean-American creative who uses any medium to highlight narratives that have been looked over or marginalized. They weave complex stories that tell uncomfortable truths while captivating viewers' attention.
Social Handle: @jen_omo on Twitter