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News :: International
Kanye West is my hero
03 Sep 2005
"I hate the way they portray us in the media. You see a black family and they say we are looting, you see a white family and they say they are looking for food. And, you know, its been five days because most of the people ARE black ... We already realize a lot of the people that could help are at war right now, fighting another way. And now they've given them permission to go down and shoot us. George Bush doesn't care about black people." -- Kanye West
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Kanye West is my hero

By Justin Felux

September 03, 2005 -- "I hate the way they portray us in the media. You see a black family and they say we are looting, you see a white family and they say they are looking for food. And, you know, its been five days because most of the people ARE black ... We already realize a lot of the people that could help are at war right now, fighting another way. And now they've given them permission to go down and shoot us. George Bush doesn't care about black people."

-- Kanye West, speaking to a nationally televised audience on NBC, September 2, 2005

"We've never seen anything like this before." I have heard this phrase repeated several times by newscasters describing the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina. However, as I watched the footage of all those black bodies desperately trudging through dirty flood waters, I realized that I actually had seen something exactly like this before. It was one year ago, when Hurricane Jeanne slammed against the coasts of Haiti, a country which like New Orleans is both poor and black. The floods and mud slides ended up killing thousands of Haitians. The media gave scant attention to the matter for a few days; just long enough to get some sexy footage of houses being destroyed and valleys filled with floodwater. Enough to boost ratings for a while. Shortly after that, they packed up their equipment and got out of there faster than you can say "racist indifference."

The United States rendered so little aid as to be insignificant, and before long the entire incident had faded from the minds of most Americans. There were few cries of outrage over the fact that this country couldn't care less about the deaths of thousands of black people, but devotes countless hours of TV time to the latest Missing Pretty White Girl (I believe at the time it was Dru Sjodin, not Natalie Holloway). But people dying in Haiti is one thing. Americans have always found it easy to dismiss the deaths of those from other countries, especially when those countries are full of dark-skinned people. But who would think our government would allow something equally devastating to happen to people on our own soil -- to people who are full-fledged American citizens (in theory, anyway)?

Enter Kanye West. The future of hip hop. An artist who more than compensates for his less-than-stellar skills as an emcee with his razor-sharp wit and passion for justice and equality, not to mention his bravado. It's hard to imagine any rapper since Tupac Shakur having the guts to get brolic with the Commander-in-Chief on national TV. He will undoubtedly be savaged by detractors on the right and the left for "politicizing" a fundraiser to aid the victims of the
flooding. However, I have little doubt that Kanye was saying exactly what most of the black residents of New Orleans are thinking right at this moment. As Kanye said on his last album, "Racism's still alive, they've just been concealin' it," but it's in times of crisis such as this one that America begins to show its true colors, and "black" isn't one of them.

The truth is, Kanye West didn't "politicize" a damn thing. George W. Bush did. The hurricane became a political issue the second Bush decided there were more important priorities than shoring up the preventive measures in New Orleans; such as giving tax cuts to billionaires and launching an evil, imperialist war against the people of Iraq. Hurricane Ivan made it abundantly clear that New Orleans was unprepared to deal with such a catastrophe if one were to occur. If only Bush could be half the statesman Fidel Castro is. The Cuban government managed to evacuate over a million people, and didn't lose a single life to Hurricane Ivan.

In fact, I'd say Kanye was far too generous. Bush, as well as some of the other players in this affair, don't simply "not care about" black people. They have been proactive oppressors of African Americans for years. As Texas governor, Bush never met a death certificate he didn't like. As a result, he is personally responsible for the executions of numerous black men. Mississippi's governor Haley Barbour warned that all "looters" would be dealt with "ruthlessly." This is a man who has been linked to the Council of Conservative Citizens, a group started from the White Citizen's Councils of the civil rights era. These were groups committed to the preservation of Jim Crow and had intimate connections and overlapping membership with the Ku Klux Klan. And the New Orleans Police Department doesn't need a "shoot to kill" order from the governor to go about attacking black folks. New Orleans consistently ranks among the top cities in the number of citizen complaints of police brutality. Just last month, a black man named Raymond Robair died after the police brought him to the hospital. Witnesses observed the cops brutally beating him, leaving him with four broken ribs and a ruptured spleen.

But don't expect the mainstream media to tell you anything negative about the New Orleans Police Department. Their time will likely be devoted to unsubstantiated stories that play into popular white fears about blacks -- stories about wild, black savages engaging in theft, murder, rape, and even cannibalism. White folks will eat it up like candy, and the ratings will soar accordingly. In a time when we are being bombarded by so many images and statements which seem designed to bring out the worst in us, it's very refreshing to see someone like Kanye West step up and call a spade a spade. Let's make sure he still has a career to go back to after the dust settles. First and foremost we should donate money to the relief efforts, but it would also be a good idea cop Kanye's new album, Late Registration. It's a classic.

-- 30 --

Justin Felux is a writer and activist based in San Antonio, Texas. He can be contacted at

-- 30 --

Union labor donated
See also:
http://www.kanyewest.com
http://www.znet.org

This work is in the public domain
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Comments

What He Said Was True
04 Sep 2005
I'm white. I'm mad.
This unforgiven government of ours is truely criminal. Beyond belief. The assinine comment above is a general moron. Of the Bush team. Between the haves and have nots? The have nots will win.
Either our government changes for the have nots? Time is running out.
Re: Kanye West is my hero
04 Sep 2005
While its great that Mr. West spoke his mind, despite censorship attempts by part of the corporate media, I still can't help but feel bittersweet. His last album sold millions, and his current one is doing quite well...How much of it is being donated? For that matter, his latest single raises the issue of "Blood Diamonds," but he doesn't seem that interested in giving up his own blood diamonds. Again, I think it was great what he said, and true as well, but I can't help but feel as if this is his way of marketing himself to an already outraged public. I recently read an article stating that his standout trait was indeed his ability to market himself. I dunno, maybe I should just be glad that his remarks (sorta) made it into the mainstream. Any other thoughts on this?
Re: Kanye West is my hero
04 Sep 2005
Justin needs to get out more. He listens to shitty rappers.
Re: Kanye West is my hero
06 Sep 2005
chip did you watch this clip? kanye is truly upset. i don't think he had anything in mind but to express his outrage. i think this is just another case of white folks thinking all rappers are immoral mysogenist pigs. kanye is a hero for saying all thoses things. how many public figures can you think of with the courage to stand up and say "George Bush does not care about black people"?