Over the weekend, Kanye West, no stranger to pissing people off, did it again. This time, West enraged his followers—Black and White—when he posted on Twitter a casting call for his upcoming Yeezy Season 4 fashion show. He requested that the models applying be “multiracial women only.” Oh, and they not wear make-up.
There are a number of reasons West’s request is particularly offensive to Black women, but high on the list is that his call for racially ambiguous beauties plays into the longstanding and baseless idea that “just Black” isn’t beautiful enough. In America’s completely screwed-up perception of beauty, Black women, particularly dark-skinned Black women, are perceived, by some, as less attractive. Psychology Today, a once-respected publication, even posted an article explaining why Black women were less beautiful than other races of women, our ugliness being a forgone, factual conclusion.
West’s tweet was the equivalent of the misguided guy who thinks he’s paying a Black woman a compliment when he says, “You’re pretty; what are you mixed with?” He doesn’t mean West Africa and Mississippi; he means Black and whatever’s not Black, because the not-Black part—that special ingredient that makes a Black woman “exotic” and exceptional—is supposed to be where the beauty must come from.
Further on the list of why West is an ass for this tweet, is that Kanye’s specifications for his models are a slap in the face to complaints about colorism and the activism about the images of Black women, particularly on the runway. Former model and current image activist Bethann Hardison has been beating the drum for years about the lack of representation of Black models—light, dark, hell, anybody— on the runway. According to the Business of Fashion, 79.4 percent of the models who walked the runway during New York, London, Milan and Paris Fashion Weeks in 2015 were White. With his tweet, Kanye, a Black man in the fashion industry, more or less just announced, IDGAF about diversity on the runway.
By displaying his preference for mixed chicks (or his racism toward Black women, depending on your perspective) West joins a long line of prominent Black men— rappers, activists, and “regular” Negroes who complain about racism, but proactively practice sexism, and for whom Black women don’t seem to be good enough. People seem shocked, even disappointed in West. The reaction of his woke Black female fans, who seemed to be the most outraged by his tweet, is best summarized as, “WTF, Yeezy?” or “What would his mother say?”
There’s this prevailing idea that if Donda West, Kanye’s deceased mother, an English professor, was still alive, Kanye would be a different man. He wouldn’t have married Kim Kardashian or dated Amber Rose. He wouldn’t have hopped on that MTV stage to interrupt Taylor Swift and he wouldn’t have had a meltdown on Sway’s morning show, talking about European fashion houses that won’t acknowledge him. If Mama West was still with him, so the theory goes, Kanye would still be the Old Kanye, the “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people” Kanye.
If… if… if Mama West was still here? Kanye still wouldn’t talk with the bass in his voice anymore. There are plenty of grown men with living mamas who make crap decisions and practice f—boi behavior. And Kanye would be one of them.
Ya’ll. Kanye isn’t a kid (unless we’re going by the Ryan Lochte definition). He’s 39 years old. He’s a grown ass man. As he was in 2006, when he referred to bi-racial women as “mutts” while being interviewed for Essence magazine, of all places. His mother passed in late 2007.
That said, I get why we treat West like a child, referencing his mother all the time. (And not just because he throws public tantrums). We—as in Black people—are still protective of him.
West came on the scene as a rapper with an underdog story. He was the clean-cut kid, who sidestepped college to chase his dream. He put in the work, making “five beats a day for three summers,” and when he finally got on as a rapper, his career was nearly derailed when he got into a near-fatal car accident. But he was so damn driven he recorded his first single, “Through the Wire” with a broken jaw. Kaye was a rapper in pink Polos who rapped about his love of Jesus and how proud he was of his mama. One of the themes of his early music was striving for greatness. He wanted to “touch the sky.”
Of course, he was incredibly superficial too. And arrogant. Very arrogant. But he also had incredibly vulnerable moments. In between his braggadocious bars (and interviews), he wrote a platonic love song to his mentor, Jay Z. And he was so dang honest about his insecurities. “We all self conscious/ I’m just the first to admit it,” he rapped on “All Falls Down.” And he said things he wasn’t “supposed” to, like, “drug dealers buy Jordans, crackheads buy crack/ And the White man get paid off of all of that,” a line so controversial that “White” was censored in the video. He had a platform and sometimes, he had the cajones to say publicly what a lot of Black people were thinking privately.
So yeah, I get the knee-jerk reaction to protect him, or better yet, attempt to excuse his current antics by referencing the trauma of his mother’s passing.
But that Kanye that we loved, who occasionally displayed a social conscious, despite his arrogance and outbursts? If it wasn’t evident at this year’s MTV Awards when the network turned over four-do-whatever-you-like-minutes of precious airtime to West and he used it, not to talk about Black Lives Matter (though he did briefly mention crime in Chicago as a segue to talk about his rich White people), or talk about the importance of voting in an election year, but to awkwardly muse on the importance of fame and to shout out his ex (who it’s obvious to anyone listening that he stiillll isn’t over), then it should be apparent now that he’s publicly cattle-calling biracial women to be the face of his brand.
The “Old Kanye,” the one that the New Kanye jokes about on The Life of Pablo, is gone. Let him go.
Demetria Lucas D’Oyley is the author of Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.