In response to Kanye West’s recent remarks about slavery and other hot button topics, longtime fan and Variety contributor Wynter Mitchell wrote an open letter to the rapper.
Dear Kanye, I always felt like you were in my head. Listening to your beats and words, intrinsically architected with emotion, imbalance and urgency, was like feeling possessed. I was drawn to your artistry with respect and admiration. The Kanye behind the microphone was like Haley’s Comet. We were lucky enough to see such magnetism once in our lifetime, and it only grew more majestic as the art evolved.
Dear Kanye, I listened to “Runaway” when my heart was broken; I put on “Flashing Lights” driving down Sunset Blvd. at night; I listen to “Good Life” when I’m feeling up and “Spaceship” when I don’t want to face the day. I listen to “Good Morning” when I wake up in an enchanting city like Paris. You are the soundtrack to a mood that now seems distant. I’m so confused.
Dear Kanye, what if you’re right? I don’t say this lightly: What if we were to exist absent of inhibition with our words and thoughts tumbling freely? I cannot behave as you do and be successful in my world. There are limits to how far I can push my “free thinking” on others and not compromise myself and my family. I have no wealth to lean on, so my free thoughts could hinder my pay. I have no team to protect me if my free thoughts became a liability. I don’t have the freedom to be as reckless as you’ve been this week. A bottom for you is endless, a bottom for me can mean the end.
Dear Kanye, our ancestors’ struggles are not fables, parables or legends or yore. They were beaten, raped, lynched, devalued and dehumanized. Stolen from their family, their possessions, their land and their culture. We are still fighting. Everyday. Have you been to the Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem? I have. You can touch a train track that transported tens of thousands to their deaths in Poland. In Washington D.C., at the National Museum of African American History, I was speechless peering into Nat Turner’s cabin and inconsolable at Emmett Till’s casket. In a separate wing, you find Michael Jackson’s Victory Tour fedora and an entire section dedicated to Barack and Michelle Obama, our first black President and First Lady. Their faces smiling at you from monitors replaying Election Night. They are regal, intelligent, kind, a beautiful black family — so comforting. Over a hundred years apart, we went from from the master’s house to the White House. Didn’t that inspire you? It changed my life.
We shed chains and marched (and marched) towards triumph, we continue to shed those restraints and course-correct our true destiny — our promise. We immerse ourselves in the protection of our identity. The artists who entered through kitchens and drank from separate water fountains but gave the performances of their lives, the pain they endured so you can sell out an arena. I’ve watched you command stages in L.A., San Francisco, New York, Texas, Paris and London. I was one of the nameless thousands who danced under a red hue until my feet blistered and my throat could scream no more. True fan worship.
Dear Kanye, I am so disappointed and embarrassed. Yet I am captivated. But I’m hurt. Am I just a fool for believing? How about for promoting? Spending? What about thinking I could be like Kanye, too? That’s what you wanted from us, your fans — to share in your greatness and to be great. That meant something. Even with all the squabbling, I still saw your point of view. We can see past a social experiment to see you whole. Your true fans are a compassionate people. But while we encourage your stream of consciousness ‘til you’re spent, times have changed.
Your words have inflicted pain, dear Kanye, and I hope it helps you understand why, as a fan, observing the intersection of art, controversy, trauma and freedom, I choose to put the tracks I love so dearly on pause.
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