Footnotes for Kanye

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I just discovered Jasmine Mans’ piece Footnotes on Kanye. After about 15 seconds, I had to hit pause. It immediately shook me, like the sound of a shot from the riffle of a highly skilled sniper on a mission from God. It was judgmental. It was risky. It stung. Even though I knew where she was headed, I pressed play and finished the piece.

I cringe because I’ve held that riffle. I’ve stood atop that tower, and peered down on a person I placed on a pedestal. I’ve loaded a piece with disappointment. I aimed for the head. I pulled the trigger in a public space. I’ve regretted it ever since. In between the lines, my message was essentially “You’re not the great person I thought you were. You are missing the mark and living beneath your true potential. Wake up!” In my gut, I knew it was misplaced energy.  I rationalized it by thinking “I know this isn’t my highest perspective, but I feel what I feel, and if I can’t use poetry to express what I feel, what’s the point?” At the time, I felt undervalued, rejected. It was a cowardly act because I didn’t have the guts to say what I really felt, which was: “I love and adore you, and I can’t change that. I wish the feeling was mutual because I see the unspeakable depth and immense potential of this relationship. I’ve never felt this way before, and I’m afraid that I may never find this with anyone else.”

Based on my experience, I’m torn by the poem. On one hand, great art exposes what people are feeling but aren’t saying, and presents it in a remarkable way. It is also polarizing and takes a stance. This poem does that very well. I’ve had long conversations with peers about our collective disappointment in the trajectory of Kanye’s career. We all loved College Dropout, but we felt that he gradually became less relatable, and no longer represented us. Jasmine captured that sentiment beautifully. On the other hand, I don’t believe Kanye was put on earth to fulfill my expectations. I believe the purpose of life is joy, and that comes in many forms for each person. It is tough to make judgements when we are looking from afar, and don’t have all of the information. It’s not our place to decide whether Kanye is fulfilling his purpose or living up to his potential.

As I listen between her lines, I hear: “We love the old Kanye, and what you represented for the black community. You are one of the most influential people on the planet, and we recognize your positive leadership potential. We want the old Kanye back because we’re afraid no one else from the culture can or will play that important role.” I also hear: “Speaking for black women who have loved you dearly, we feel undervalued and rejected because you chose white women with black features over one of us, one of your own.”

Just like my poem, I’m torn because the energy is real and deserves to be expressed, but feels misguided. There are a lot of celebs wielding their influence for the good of the black community and deserve to be appreciated for their work. I think it’s wise to celebrate those who are meeting our expectations rather than criticize those who aren’t. I also think it’s wise that people (black women in this specific case) not let their self-worth be affected by another person’s dating preferences. With that said, I like the poem because it made me feel something and sparked thought.

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