Updated: Nov 15
By Daniel Ogas
Tolerance is a virtue that has often been left out of our history books. The constant occurrence of people in positions of power getting away with showcasing their intolerance is far too exhausting to continue without being called out.
Kanye West has been no stranger to being the focal point of that topic. As a world-renowned hip-hop artist, West saw massive success and became one of pop culture’s most powerful voices.
However, when it came to West carrying that platform, he took a feckless approach that led to numerous controversies at the expense of various cultural communities throughout the United States and the world.
Most recently, West embarked on an antisemitic rampage via Twitter.
West’s tweet prompted celebrities like his old friend John Legend and other public figures to publicly call out the harmful rhetoric.
West’s tweets prompted Twitter to put a restriction on his account for violating the company’s guidelines.
Weeks before West’s Twitter fiasco, he landed himself in hot water for arriving at his Paris Fashion Week show wearing a shirt with the words “White Lives Matter” written in large print. It was a statement that went against the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. BLM took off in recent years after numerous injustices that targeted Black Americans took place at the hands of police officers.
For years, West has been disrupting the pop culture world with statements and actions that have been worthy of a second look.
In 2020, the rapper embarked on an impractical presidential bid.
“I almost killed my daughter. I love my daughter,” West said in his first campaign event, referring to his stance on abortion issues.
Along with that, West has been accused of using social media to harass his ex-wife Kim Kardashian since she filed for divorce in 2021.
Despite these things, fashion and pop culture media continue to report on West as a cultural icon. Earlier this year, Complex Mag said West is “Defining today’s fashion zeitgeist.”
Thus begs the question, how far is too far?
Teen Vogue Editor-in-Chief Versha Sharma wrote an op-ed about how fashion media has covered West inappropriately and without criticism for years.
“Since I started my current job, we’ve had thoughtful conversations among staff about whether it’s worth covering the latest Yeezy collaboration (it’s not),” Sharma said.
Sharma spoke on the influence that journalists and media workers have on the public.
“Editors, writers, commentators: You have more power and influence than you may think,” Sharma said. “People follow you for a reason. Consider how to use that platform responsibly.”.
Sharma’s stance and choices hold value for not only West, but also for pop culture media collectively.
Ultimately, this goes back to powerful people being celebrated, highlighted, and awarded for contributing to intolerance in an industry that has enabled widespread bigotry for decades.
Here is the thing – I was part of the crowd that once looked at West as the musical genius he once was. All through high school I continuously played his 2007 album “Graduation.”
To this day, I consider his 2004 debut album “The College Dropout” to be one of the best hip hop/rap records of all time.
Having said that, I am aware that pop culture has the power to set the tone of a collective society. It retains the standards that decide where our society is going.
We live in a moment where mental health struggles are not the taboo topic they used to be. Yet somehow, society has taken West’s mental anguish and turned it into some sort of trending topic that is to be plastered across national and global headlines.
West is mentally ill. He deserves the opportunity to get out of the public eye and deal with those issues accordingly.
But two things can exist at the same time. Mental illness is never an excuse to showcase and celebrate the discriminatory dogma that a person in power exudes.
Simultaneously, society and all of us in it deserve the opportunity to reject bigotry and continue building a cultural space where everyone is welcomed, celebrated, and represented.
If we want to continue on a path toward total inclusion, voices like Sharma’s must continue to step into leadership positions within the fashion industry.
Along with that, audiences who consume such media must take the opportunity to call out the industry when it enables people like West, who partake in actions that further enable the lack of inclusion in modern-day pop culture.