Leutz: Don’t Shut Up and Rap

Kanye West: Making Opinion Great Again.

by Peter Leutz | 11/1/18 2:15am

Married to a Kardashian and boasting countless smash hit records along with an extremely successful clothing line, Kanye West is no stranger to the spotlight. Lately, however, Kanye has found himself in the limelight for a new reason: politics. Kanye West, along with Lil Pump, was the musical guest on this season’s premiere of “Saturday Night Live.” As the credits rolled, West rapped his song “Ghost Town” while sporting his bright red Make America Great Again hat. After the broadcast cut out, West delivered a Kanye-sized rant to the SNL audience about his support for President Donald Trump. Just two weeks later, West visited President Trump in the Oval Office, dazzling viewers with more ranting — this time, to an audience of the entire nation. 

Although I cannot bring myself to agree with West on many of his political beliefs displayed in the past few weeks, I can appreciate unrelenting opinion when I see it. This country needs more political discourse, not less. Celebrities should be encouraged to start the conversation that ends at the polls. Unfortunately, such encouragement to speak one’s mind was not received by West after his demonstration of support for the President. 

West’s SNL rant was met with dismay by viewers, fans and cast members alike. In fact, the very next week, SNL star Pete Davidson responded to West’s admittedly disjointed pro-Trump speech, calling it “one of the worst, most awkward things I’ve seen here.” The always hilarious Davidson continued, “I wish I would have bullied you. I wish I suggested that, you know, it might upset some people like your wife, or every black person ever.” While Davidson’s monologue was received in good humor, it walks a fine line between comedy and restricting the right to share an opinion, even if that opinion is unpopular. 

Davidson was not alone. In fact, many other SNL cast members including Kenan Thompson publicized not only disagreement, but disappointment with the comments made by West on “Late Night with Seth Meyers.” Viewers across the nation with similar political beliefs to Thompson and Davidson agreed, wishing that West would have just stuck to his musical performance without bringing any politics into it. This response to West’s admittedly sloppy attempt at political discourse bears a similar sentiment to that of Fox News host Laura Ingraham ‘85 on February 19th of this past year. Ingraham outraged Americans when she famously commented that Lebron James should “shut up and dribble.” Ingraham was shunned, as it was seen as well in bounds for Lebron James to make political comments as an athlete. So why are people treating Kayne West any differently? 

Like James, West is no doubt one of those leading the pack in his respective profession. Yet when he steps out of the world of that profession to comment on the current state of politics in this country, West is scolded by the left, the same people who were outraged by the fact that Lebron was told to “shut up and dribble.” I am far from a Trump supporter. However, I thought the response to Kanye’s political comments sounded a lot like “shut up and rap.” 

This is where I think, as a nation, we must be careful. Americans cannot allow the current political climate to metastasize into one that says “shut up if we don’t agree with you.” Now certainly, Lebron’s comments on politics may have been far more pleasing to the ear than those of Kanye West, and certainly, hearing a Fox News host call for the limiting of free speech makes one’s blood boil far more than the innocently hilarious SNL star Pete Davidson. However, an attack on opinion anywhere is an attack on opinion everywhere. I’m not asking for agreement with Kanye’s political manifesto — far from it. However, it’s important to listen. I don’t own a MAGA hat. I don’t see myself anywhere near purchasing one in the future. But I understand that beneath that MAGA hat is a person — not a lunatic, but an American. Regardless of agreement, discussion is imperative. Americans must ask questions about immigration, abortion and foreign policy, and if they find the opposition to be uneducated on the matter, share some knowledge, but it is un-American to put people down for their opinions. 

During his meeting with President Trump, West called his MAGA hat his “superman cape.” While I don’t agree, I find my own opinions to be my superman cape. We are fortunate enough to live in a country where the power of opinion can be shared freely. Let’s work to keep it that way. Hats off to you, Kanye.