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Kanye West and Travis Scott Are Confronting the Erasure of African American History and Culture

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Kanye West and Travis Scott have just joined forces with their brand new single, “Wash Us in The Blood.” This single is eliciting the wrath of the old Kanye in full re-birth: Is the radical, revolutionary Kanye back?

Kanye West has made it known that he is a major Trump fan, yet Trump fans are inherently either supporting or merely allowing systematic and institutionalized racism to rise and flourish. In other words, they want to wash away the history of slavery and the names of black lives that have been lost due to police brutality away in the blood. 

The thing that is consistently unclear is Kanye’s belief system and values. He claims to be a Trump supporter, and endorses President Trump, wears a MAGA hat with pride – yet he drops a track like “Wash Us in The Blood” that is in support of the Black Lives Matter Movement. 

Trump supporters are either just engulfed with plain racism, denial of the fact that racism even exists due to their blinding privilege, or simply Trump’s racist and misogynistic ideologies are not enough of a deal-breaker for them. Yet Kanye is exposing the culprit of Trump supporters who are trying to erase the names of black lives that have been taken and the bloodshed that plagues America.

Photo Credit to The Guardian

“Wash Us in The Blood” is all about the concept of denial that America has been engulfed in for centuries – it is the inability to admit to the bloodshed and genocide they have inflicted on BIPOC, that bloodshed should be a guilty conscience that is transformed into activism yet instead it is presented as erasure. 

You can’t wash away and purify bloody water without ever acknowledging that is tainted – that bloody water symbolizes a history of slavery, mass incarceration, and systematic racism. America still continues to walk around with bloody hands. Kanye is speaking on the direct effects of erasure of African American’s history and culture – the fact that our country is unable and unwilling to confront our racist past is exactly why racism remains immortalized today. 

The act of erasure only leads to the havoc and bloodshed of America’s past to be resurrected today in the form of police brutality and mass incarceration. People love to re-direct anti-racist conversations back towards black on black crime, or paint African Americans as innately criminal. Yet the act of erasure and denial is what allows for poverty and crime to target African American communities.

When white people cling towards the denial of their white privilege and what it affords them on a daily basis – safety, health, affordable housing, freedom, wealth – it single-handedly depletes and takes from African Americans to secure those same rights. Whenever there is a group that is being oppressed, another group is benefiting as a result.  

This act of erasure of racism and white privilege is what forces African Americans into a constant state of survival mode. This survival mode will force them into a life of selling and pushing drugs in order to afford to live and support their families, it can force them into a life of crime – all of these can ultimately lead to mass incarceration, which seems to be the goal of the prison industrial system: to keep African Americans into a state of enslavement, to continue to strip them of their human rights. 

This is what Kanye is speaking about, that the presence of erasure will no longer be able to be washed away because we are finally refusing to turn a blind eye. 

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Kanye raps, “Wash us in the blood, whole life bein’ thugs, no choice sellin drugs, genocide what it does, mass incarc what it does.” As much as I love to see Kanye West speaking out about the Black Lives Matter movement and the important messages he is invoking in this single – I can’t help but feel a bit unsettled as he seems to be simultaneously taking both sides of a very divided nation. If you can stand, support, and vote for Donald Trump – you cannot also claim to be supportive of the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Trump not only stands against all BIPOC’s rights to live, rights for equality – but he wants to wash away their mere existence, their voices, the lives that have already been taken due to racism. He wants to wash away African American’s history and culture just as America has been doing since the beginning of time. 

I look at photos of Kanye West marching and protesting in Chicago, then swipe and the next picture I find is of him adorning a red MAGA hat and shaking Trump’s hand. Kanye seems to have a presence of both polarized sides that America is straddling and has anchored them both within him. I desperately hope that Kanye continues on the path towards activism, social justice and starts channeling his platform to be in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter Movement. 

However, we cannot expect to know at any given moment which side Kanye will choose to stand by and support, which voices he will choose to uplift. Yet, I denounce cancel culture, if someone is starting to enact change in the words that they use, the messages that they invoke – then I want to support that so hopefully that change will continue to develop and bear fruit. 

At the same time, calling out people who seem to play both sides, who may be engaging in performative activism, or who are just simply taking the wrong steps towards allyship is incredibly crucial and needed. I hope to see Kanye being called out for his support of the Trump administration, but I also hope people will not resort to cancel culture when it comes to “Wash Us in The Blood.” In the case of Kanye, it is more of a return, than a complete departure. 

Throughout this single, Kanye and Travis both plead for the holy spirit to shine it’s light onto the desolation, violence, and hatred that is attacking, threatening, and robbing African Americans daily. 

They ask for the rain to come down and purify the sins of our county’s racist past through the act of confrontation and rebellion. They summon the rain of justice to be unleashed and brought forth. 

Maddy Ipema
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