The Thing About Kanye


My ex-husband was a huge Kanye fan in the late 2000’s and early 2010’s. On road trips he would regale me with tales of Kanye West’s musical genius. How his producing skills were the perfect blend of eccentricity, steeped in a historical appreciation of the greatest Black musicians of the 20th century. “Kanye”…he would tell me, “Could do something with a beat, that hip-hop hadn’t seen the likes of before”. “Kanye”, he would say, “Had the ability to bridge the old and the new while simultaneously crafting something different and unique”. Then his face would grow dim, almost like a kid who found out there really isn’t a Santa Claus and he would describe the following watershed moment like a death. “I don’t know what happened, Kanye changed, his music got really dark and his style just fell off…I think it had something to do with his mothers death”. I would nod, and ask questions, more interested in the psychological journey of an artist who was esteemed and fell from grace then of the music itself. I like hip-hop…but I’m not what you would call a fan.


That said, as an actress, the journey of pain, discovery, triumph, defeat and peace has always been of interest to me. So to see this particular artist, a man who had obtusely decided that George W. Bush didn’t like black people only to apologize for that very proclamation years later.


A man who had once run on a televised awards stage uninvited, to rip an award away from a young girl who he felt was undeserving, only to have the woman who he did feel was deserving, take the young girls side and apologize profusely.


A man who wore his feelings on his sleeve, detailing the heartbreak and disappointments of his relationship with a music mogul he at one time considered to be his brother.


A man who embraced a divisive polarizing corrupt president as a father and mentor. While simultaneously terrorizing black culture with misnomers about our history on a nationally syndicated gossip show.


And finally, a man, who for months, has held impromptu worship events where he genuinely humbled himself and gave honor to God, admitting his transgressions and in earnest asked folks to do the same, compelled me.


If I knew nothing about his music I was certainly beginning to know something about the man based on his public antics over the past few years. I knew that he was clumsy, and almost childlike, with a reckless abandon led entirely by emotion, void of forethought or investigation. And I knew, that in spite of all of that, or maybe because of it, this man was being used by God.


Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.

-1 Corinthians 1:27-29


Politics aside, and believe me it’s coming but first this.


The religious landscape of America is changing. Or more aptly put, it has changed.

Those who identify as Christians are declining at a rapid rate. Statistics show that the demographic experiencing exponential growth are those who identify as either spiritual or those who have no religious affiliation at all. There is a growing palpable disdain for organized religion and the hypocrisy that often accompanies it.


Don’t get me wrong, there IS a need for the love, redemption and tenderness of Christ. There IS a need for the healing, grace, and faith found only in the spirit of God. But the church is failing to meet that need. The legacy of Christianity in America is tattered and torn, littered with far right hate, pastors for profit and tribal judgment. In the face of this, is there any wonder that folks have turned away.


For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?

I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.

-Isaiah 43:19


I have a saying: Recognize when God is in the room. Simply put, discern when the spirit of God is at work to heal, to love, to restore and to renew. There are people attending Kanye’s Sunday Service who would have never stepped foot in a church. There are people attending Kanye’s Sunday Service who need a message in the wild. A word in the wilderness. It’s time out for church as usual. This generation requires a radical move of God. They long for His presence without the pomp and circumstance of religion.


But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way.

-John 4:23-24


So I’m not surprised that God would use the clumsy, almost childlike heart of a man surrendered to Him in reckless abandon to gather His people in an uncommon way, with an uncommon worship to manifest a movement.


Kanye West, for all his faults and foolhardy politics is that dude.

I wouldn’t have picked him in a million years but then again, I’m not God.

And like I said, I recognize when God is using someone in spite of themselves to gather his people and glorify his name in worship.


As I celebrate what God is doing through Kanye’s Sunday Service, I will likewise, with the same passion, speak against that which is NOT founded in truth.


I told you it was coming. It’s here now.


I’m not talking about political bias or conservative vs liberal policy. I am a Democrat and although I disagree with Kanye’s support of the Republican party, I know enough history to understand that neither party has a foothold in righteousness.


What I do find fault with however is ignorance and misinformation. While Kanye’s leap-first-look-later, raw transparency is useful in a heart surrendered to share the love of Christ. The word of God also admonishes us to “study to show ourselves approved”. In other words, be diligent in learning the truth so that you will know what you are talking about.


Which brings me to what can only be described as the vacuous ramblings of a man clearly uneducated in American history and more specifically Black American history. Kanye’s recent assertions that poverty in the African American community can be laid at the feet of a desire for cars and shoes over land is not only erroneous it is irresponsible. His claim that we would rather watch a game of basketball instead of fight for the rights of ourselves and our brethren is not only fiction, it is vile. It’s as if he learned black history at a Klan meeting or determined that the blaxploitation movies from the 70s were an accurate depiction of African American values. Which is basically tantamount to believing that the movie Pretty Woman is a factual representation of life as a prostitute.


But I digress, my bigger issue is that the truth about these matters is not hidden in some secret vault placed high on an unreachable hill surrounded by a mote flanked with armed guards and lions.


THE TRUTH ABOUT THESE HISTORICAL PRECEDENTS ARE EASILY FOUND THROUGH A GOOGLE SEARCH!

This is the information age for goodness sake! IT AIN’T HARD.

But since I started this, let me help……


Black folks are the forefathers of the greatest fight for equal rights this country has EVER witnessed. Many marginalized groups reap the benefit of what our people have protested, marched, fought and died for. We have literally laid down our lives for the freedom of ourselves and others. To say anything less is a ridiculous notion that history itself rejects.


In regards to the pursuit of land ownership in the African American community the story is neither simple or pretty. It involves the diabolical lengths to which this government has gone to to obliterate that hope and a people who continue to overcome in spite of it. The history is too vast and layered to aptly address in one blog but it certainly can not be swept up in the racially insensitive stereotype that black folks would rather floss than own land. That is simply not true.


Yes, in every race, creed and culture you will find those without vision and gumption to progress. But in every race, creed and culture you will not also find a transatlantic slave trade or the forced free labor of a people who built wealth for an entire race, government and country, yet received NOTHING in return to build their own. The case of the disparity of African American homeownership is particular, and it includes:

- A government policy set up to lawfully steal land that was purchased by newly freed slaves. -A Jim Crow system that did NOT allow them to own land thereby disabling them from leaving a legacy of land ownership to their descendants like their Anglo counterparts.

-Legal segregation limiting home loans and income needed to purchase land.

-Government orchestrated Redlining, that denied home loans to African American families and then when they did receive a loan, the interest rate was increased astronomically making it harder for us to acquire and build a legacy.


The same thing and more was done to black farmers. Making it not only extremely difficult to own land but to also work the land.

And we won’t even get into the well documented plan under Hoover to flood the African American community with drugs, criminalize black skin and cultivate a near genocide to the Black American family.


The only difference between the two political parties is that the Democratic party admits wrong doing and is attempting in some small ways to make amends. Whereas the Republican party remains duplicitous and steadfast in the criminalization of black skin.


Unfortunately neither party has ever fully addressed the systemic and institutionalized racism that created and perpetuates our atrocious dilemma. Which makes Kanye’s allegiance to the republican party under the guise of the ill formed misnomer that African American poverty is all about a desire for cars and shoes, all the more troubling. Look deeper.


The idea that blind support of Trump is the “fix” or that if we just wanted land instead of Jordans we’d solve all equality issue is amazingly naive. There are actually educated African Americans with degrees, or African Americans without degrees who have worked everyday of their adult lives, have never owned a pair of Jordans-don’t want to, would love to own land and yet do not. How does he explain them? How does he explain the black farmer who has worked the land all of his life and been denied subsidies and loans white farmers get ad nauseam? How does he explain the Central Park Five? Where was their love of stuff over land?


His broad sweep generalization is the evidence of his miseducation. A miseducation on things that again, can be EASILY Googled.


My hope for Kanye is that as his faith in God grows, so would his desire to educate himself on our shared humanity. Loving God’s people comes with a responsibility to the truth. The truth of our history, the truth of our challenges and the truth of God’s love to redeem any situation or circumstance. But it all begins with truth.


Educate yourself my brother so that you can be used after the worship service is over. Educate yourself so that you can participate in the edification and building of a people who have a history of overcoming and advancing by God’s eminent grace. SEE us clearly, we are FAR MORE than you’ve been told.

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© 2019 Erin Wiley Sands.