On Friday, October 4th, 2019 Hillary Clinton visited GW’s campus, speaking at Lisner Auditorium about relevant issues from Trump’s potential impeachment to her recently published piece The Book of Gutsy Women. But a quick twitter search on “GW Lisner auditorium visit” will not conjure up quotes from the female politician, former secretary of state, writer, and former first lady; but instead will lead you to find pictures of Kanye West, smiling goofily as he waves to a swarming sea of GW students.
At a school like George Washington University where every other conversation seems to allude to social justice or politics, how is it that Kanye West’s presence is revered, while Hillary Clinton’s is essentially disregarded?
Some may assert that as a recording artist and as a person, Kanye West is just a more interesting individual; between his shifting personas and lavish lifestyle, one can’t help but be a little intrigued by the prospect of seeing him in the flesh.
But more significantly, I think these closely-timed visits – and the contrasting responses they garnered from GW’s student body – says even more about our cultural values and our tendency to stand by a political position or belief only when it is convenient for us.
When it comes to politicians’ rhetorical choices, society is quick to rip apart and analyze every speech they present, every campaign advertisement they release, or interview they conduct. The general public is unforgiving and sometimes ruthless when public political figures slip-up or worse, say something problematic. But yet, this philosophy does not extend to society’s real influencers: celebrities.
Our capacity to compartmentalize certain aspects of a celebrity and dismiss problematic traits speaks to how unshakeable our loyalty is to them, and reflects that celebrities like Kanye West may actually bear a great influence on the general public’s behavior than those government leaders who are creating laws and policies for us.
Problematic and disturbing themes have become so deeply ingrained into all genres of music that today, we actually come to expect singers to say vile things on the radio that in other settings would be viewed as completely inappropriate. The music industry has desensitized the general public, allowing detrimental actions to continue on, unchallenged.
Those who identify as proponents of racial justice should try their best to uphold that identity throughout all facets of their life – not just through what they post on social media, but also through the kinds of artists they support – even if that means having to miss a concert from someone like Kanye West, a believer in the notion that “slavery was a choice.”