We need to talk about Kanye West.
Like many people, I have watched in bemusement as Kanye has put on one of the most public displays of decompensation I have ever witnessed. While he has had a long history of erratic behavior, things came to a boiling point with his recent anti-Semitic remarks, when he tweeted “I’m going death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE,” which he followed by declaring “war” on P. Diddy, when he tweeted, “Ima use you as an example to show the Jewish people that told you to call me that no one can threaten or influence me.” These statements perpetuate the old antisemitic trope of Jewish power and control.
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Kanye’s most recent anti-Semitic behaviors are deeply disturbing and deserve the condemnation he is receiving. It is also the case that Kanye’s anti-Black behaviors are deeply disturbing and deserving of the same level of condemnation. Kanye’s behavior and comments have been very damaging for the Black community, in part because they have provided cover for racists and White supremacists who agree with the stupid and racist things Kanye has said (e.g., neo-Nazis saying Kanye West is the greatest since Adolf Hitler and hanging an antisemitic, pro-Kanye banner over a Los Angeles highway).
As a Black psychologist, I have long been concerned about Kanye’s mental health and the negative psychological impact Kanye has had on the Black community. There has been a lot of commentary about his bipolar disorder, with people often attributing his erratic behavior to going through a manic episode. There is no doubt that his bipolar disorder has greatly contributed to his past and current difficulties. However, there is something much deeper going on that Eurocentric paradigms of mental health cannot explain.