Hip-hop artist Kanye West was criticized by the left for his support of Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential race. But anyone who thought that would lead him to walk away from conservative ideas found out recently that he instead may be doubling down.
Less than a week after returning to Twitter, following a nearly year-long break, the rapper who once claimed that then-President George W. Bush did not care about black people because of his much-criticized response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 appeared to endorse a pro-Trump conservative who regularly criticizes Black Lives Matter.
Candace Owens is a conservative activist turned communications director for Turning Point USA, a nonprofit that has gained prominence for spreading right-leaning values on college campuses and for its proximity to the Trump White House. Owens earlier oversaw the group’s “urban engagement.”
But for Owens, engaging urban communities has at times meant attempting to dismantle arguments about white privilege put forward by black activists and the Democratic Party.
When Black Lives Matter activists protested a speech she gave Friday at the University of California at Los Angeles, she accused them of embracing victimhood by focusing on slavery and the systemic racism of the past:
“It’s embarrassing. You’re not living through anything right now. You’re overly privileged Americans.”
She later tweeted about the protesters: “They’re a bunch of whiny toddlers, pretending to be oppressed for attention.”
After the National Rifle Association was criticized over how it treats black gun owners compared with white ones, Owens defended the group, which helps sponsor Turning Point events. She said: “The NRA is the oldest civil rights organization in the country. In the 1960s, they helped to train black Americans to use guns to defend themselves against the Ku Klux Klan, a Democrat terrorist group.”
“I truly believe that @realDonaldTrump isn’t just the leader of the free world, but the savior of it as well,” she recently tweeted.
It is not clear what West’s intent was in voicing support for her. But Owens responded well to his words, calling them the “affirmation I needed to go forward so just thank you,” which was surprising, considering that she has previously said that no one cares what celebrities think.
But if the hope was that West's endorsement would grant her worldview some validation among black voters, particularly millennials and those who supported the South Side Chicago native long before he moved to Southern California to join forces with Kim Kardashian, perhaps it was misplaced.
The rapper, once embraced for lyrics that attacked the racist underpinnings of U.S. drug policy, its criminal justice system and capitalism, had a strongly left-leaning foundation growing up. His father was a former Black Panther, and his late mother was a professor at a historically black college.
But West's politics have become increasingly right-leaning, attracting criticism from the left. And his embrace of Owens, who has aligned herself with Alex Jones and conservatism’s other fringe thinkers, does not appear to have been well received by politically engaged blacks.
In fact, the people who responded most favorably to West’s endorsement of Owens appeared to be other conservative activists, many of them young white men — a demographic that is a huge patron of hip-hop.
If conservatives want to win black votes, telling that bloc that racism does not exist and calling those voters childish when they object is probably not the best approach — even when endorsed by a hip-hop artist once celebrated by black thinkers.