PUNK: Kanye West Goes Off Script


“George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”

Ah, nothing like using live TV to cause a stir.

Kanye West says what he wants, when he wants. But before he was storming MTV stages to interrupt poor Taylor Swift, he used a charity telethon for Hurricane Katrina relief to say what a lot of people were thinking.

The George Bush government was slow to respond to the Hurricane Katrina crisis in New Orleans, in part because the President was on vacation. When you consider over 65 per cent of New Orleans residents were African American, and 30 per cent were poor, the perception was that the government was insensitive and neglectful to the needs of poor, black Americans. Or, put another way: George Bush doesn’t care about black people.

Some people wrongly criticized Kanye for making the telethon about himself, causing a scene when he should have been helping raise money for those affected by Hurricane Katrina. But Kanye’s words weren’t about himself. Kanye’s words gave voice to the anger simmering throughout his community. Mychal Denzel Smith called it the “first relatable expression of black rage on a national stage“ for a generation of black men and women. Kanye was speaking out against racism in the USA and he did it in a way that forced people to listen, no matter how uncomfortable it made them. Kanye’s words weren’t egotistical; they were empowering.

The Huffington Post has a great backgrounder on Kanye’s statement. And while most people remember those seven powerful words, what gets lost is that Kanye had a pointed critique of the media’s representation of black people as well.

“I hate the way they portray us in the media. You see a black family, it says, ‘They’re looting.’ You see a white family, it says, ‘They’re looking for food.’ And, you know, it’s been five days because most of the people are black…. America is set up to help the poor, the black people, the less well-off, as slow as possible.”

Kanye going off.


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