COMMENTARY: Kanye West Makes a Mockery of Black Oppression for Profit



If anyone deserves boycotting, it’s Kanye West.

Just ask Rev. Al Sharpton who is calling for a national boycott of West, the controversial hip-hop artist, over his new clothing line that features the dreaded Confederate flag symbol.

Sharpton’s National Action Network is leading the boycott, saying it will not support any store that sells West’s Confederate flag merchandise.  It’s a prudent decision by Sharpton. West should be called out in the same high-profile way he introduced his racially-charged clothes. The Confederate flag has remained a symbol of racism for many African Americans since the flag was adopted by Southern states during the Civil War. West may have forgotten that Southerners were fighting to keep black people in slavery.  But in an interview with a Los Angeles radio station, West, 36, explained his warped reasoning for using the Confederate flag. “React how you want,” West said. “Any energy is good energy. You know the Confederate flag represented slavery in a way – that’s my abstract take on what I know about it. So I made the song ‘New Slaves.’ So I took the Confederate flag and made it my flag. It’s my flag. Now what are you going to do?”


“Kanye West selling jackets with the Confederate flag on them is a disgrace and embarrassment,” Rev. K.W. Tulloss, President of the Los Angeles branch of the of National Action Network, said in a statement.  “Many of our ancestors were brutalized, kidnapped , raped, and murdered during slavery under this flag,” Tulloss said. “It’s inexcusable for West to be promoting and merchandising this flag. We’re determined to boycott and shut down any other stores that attempt to sell this merchandise.”  The boycott against West is significant because there are so many young black boys and girls who don’t know the history of the Civil War, the story of slavery, and the visceral reaction from African Americans to the Confederate flag.  Would you want your child embracing West’s racist Confederate flag-clad gear without understanding the decades-old context?

Ironically, West unveiled his Confederate flag clothing line around the same time the new film, “12 Years a Slave,” was released nationwide. The provocative film tells the story of a free black man who was lured from his home in New York in 1841 to be sold into slavery.  So with all the weighty and painful discussion about slavery and the dehumanization of black people, West decides to make a mockery of black oppression for profit. And, as a black man, West proudly – and oddly – claims the Confederate flag as his own.  “The Confederate flag symbolizes dehumanization, injustice and pain. It is a stark reminder of an era in our history that was defined by the abhorrent practice of slavery,” Sharpton said in a statement. “And it is representative of a mentality that looked upon blacks as inferiors who needed to remain in the shackles of subservience.”

There’s no doubt that West is well aware of the controversy surrounding the Confederate flag, but he probably doesn’t care because he stands to make a hefty profit from his clothing line. For West, it’s apparently all about business; it’s all about making money.  And for Sharpton, conversely, it’s all about shutting West down.  Here’s to a successful boycott.

What do you think? Should West’s clothing line be boycotted?


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