Lincoln Anthony Blades on a symbol of hate transformed.
As much as I’m a HUGE fan of Kanye West‘s music (admittedly more of his older stuff), I don’t really keep up with his fashion endeavors too much. To be perfectly honest with you, I’m really not interested in fashion week and the latest in haute couture. Hell, I’m not even that interested in knowing the 2014 release date of every pair of Nike Air Jordans. As much as I’m interested in being stylish, staying ahead of the fashion curve just seems exhausting to me. When Kanye started selling shoes, I didn’t find out until my boy told me he got gravel lodged in his cheek from sleeping on the sidewalk in a long-ass line outside the store on the release date. When ‘Ye reportedly sold a white Tee on his site for some ridiculous amount (way more than the $4 I would allot to ANY white tee), I didn’t find out until blogs started to report on it all over Facebook and Twitter. But when he released his Confederate flag fashion, I managed to see it as soon as it dropped – and it made me stand up from my chair and give that man a hearty round of applause.
Now after I showed Yeezy love for his risky fashion attempt, I realized that I was the only one clapping. In fact, the majority of the Black community lashed out against him, including people like Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest, who stated on Twitter:
Fuck the Confederate flag. I love Kanye no shots but my people continue to suffer psychologically from hardships that happened under that banner.
And it was at that point that I wondered if maybe I was the only one who “got” what was really going on here. I definitely don’t consider myself uniquely advantaged from an educational standpoint and I don’t believe I have superior comprehension skills, but I thought we all at least understood what ‘Ye was going for – but it’s alarming to find out that many people don’t.
I’ve read articles where people call him a troll, claim he’s anti-intellectual, and even state that his affection for the Black community is nothing more than a carefully-constructed ruse that he created to establish a hardcore Black fan-base, that he truly doesn’t give a DAMN about. But I think all of that is BULLSHIT.
The reason Kanye’s Confederate flag is absolutely awesome is because he’s attempting to appropriate the LARGEST symbol of white power, privilege, and racial dominance known to African Americans.
The Confederate flag is not only a symbol of slavery, lynchings, and Black oppression, but it is also a cherished symbol of white southern pride for many people who still have backwards and prejudiced hate for Black people. For some white Americans, seeing the Confederate flag burn would offend them just as much, if not more, than seeing the American flag burn. And it’s those people who hate seeing a “n*gger” like Kanye West proudly rocking their emblem – and he’s MORE than aware of that.
For Kanye, wearing the Confederate flag isn’t about mocking his ancestors, but appropriating something that white, conservative racists love, and letting them feel helpless as he denigrates everything it means to them. This unimpeachable symbol of white power is now nothing more than a fashion statement that Kanye wants to OWN and minimize, just like Black culture and history is appropriated by whites every day. Kanye stated himself:
React how you want. Like I said, any energy you got is good energy. You know, the Confederate flag represented slavery, in a way — that’s my abstract take on what I know about it, right? So I made the song ‘New Slaves.’ So I took the Confederate flag and made it my flag. It’s my flag now! Now what are you gonna do?
The reason I love that approach is because I feel the biggest problem with Black people and our fight for equal rights is that we often forget it’s a FIGHT. We have been lulled into a false-sense of equality through the election of a Black president and the concept that we now live in a post-racial society. We believe that we need to APPEAL to the good heart of the privileged, white upper-class, instead of realizing that true change involves FIGHTING. Sometimes, the only way to make someone really feel where you’re coming from is to inflict them in-kind. That’s exactly what I see when Kanye throws on HIS Confederate flag.
In 2013, Black people have a choice: We can continue to passively demand change and keep rehashing the same complaints, or we can boldly attempt to fight ignorance. I love the idea of Kanye appropriating that flag because the truth is, it wasn’t going anywhere. It’s still a proud (and to some people, sacred) symbol of “the good ol’ days” that is displayed on vehicles, houses, buildings, and clothing. It’s still flown in Black people’s faces in an attempt to infuriate and degrade us. Burying your head in the sand and hoping that it will magically disappear isn’t the answer – but maybe erasing its importance for a whole new generation of young adults would be a fitting way to bury the Confederate flag forever. From a symbol of terror to a meaningless fashion fad that no racist could find pride in, seems like the best way to take its power.
Originally posted at Uptown Magazine.
Author Lincoln Anthony Blades blogs daily on his site ThisIsYourConscience.com, he’s an author of the book “You’re Not A Victim, You’re A Volunteer” and a weekly contributor for UPTOWN Magazine. He can be reached via Twitter @lincolnablades and on Facebook at This Is Your Conscience.
photo David Wolf / Flickr