One has to look at history to find a time when a Black American made more news by being a guest at the White House than did rapper Kanye West. Yes, the election of Barack Obama was historic, but not as a guest in the White House, but as the first person with significant and notable Black heritage to reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
West is more in the tradition of Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington.
Douglass was a friend and informal advisor to President Abraham Lincoln. Many believe that he was the very first Black American to enter the White House as a guest of a President. In one instance, Douglass was an invitee to an inaugural party in the mansion. However, he was detained by guards who were unfamiliar with his friendship with the President. Upon seeing Douglass at the door, Lincoln directed the guards to allow his good friend to enter.
Some 35 years later, President Teddy Roosevelt made history by inviting Booker T. Washington to the White House for dinner no less. Black leaders had visited the White House for business meetings, but none were ever invited to dine with the President in the private quarters. According to the southern Democrats at that time, it was a breach of social custom. After all, segregation was still legal in much of America, including the nation’s capital.
Just as in the case of Kanye West, the invitations were offered by controversial and strong-willed Republican Presidents. All three events resulted in the leaders of the Democratic Party and their friends in the press in going bonkers. One difference was that West was not a former slave, as were both Douglass and Washington – unless you consider him a former slave to Democratic Party orthodoxy and authority. You might say all three had escaped racial oppression.
With the Civil War still raging, the friendship between Lincoln and Douglass was particularly grating on those Democrats who seceded from the Union over such interracial relationships. Southern editors wrote scathing editorials and published the most offensive political cartoons.
(Warning, the next paragraphs are a bit disturbing, but history should never be sanitized or eradicated.)
When word got out of Washington’s dinner with Roosevelt, the Democrats attacked both Roosevelt and Washington. South Carolina’s racist Democrat Senator Pitchfork Ben Tillman said, “The action of President Roosevelt in entertaining that n****r will necessitate our killing a thousand n*****s in the South before they learn their place again.”
Democrat Governor William Oats, of Alabama, declared that “No respectable white man in Alabama of any political party would ask him to dinner nor go to dinner with him.”
Mississippi Governor James K. Vardaman said, “President Roosevelt takes this n****r bastard into his home, introduces him to his family, and entertains him on terms of absolute social equality.” Vardaman added, “I am as much opposed to Booker T. Washington as a voter as I am to the cocoanut-headed, chocolate-colored typical little coon who blacks my shoes every morning. Neither is fit to perform the supreme function of citizenship.”
There are scores of similar sentiments by a lot of those southern Democrats, but you get the point.
While such coarseness of the language is not acceptable today, those current Democrats among us – and most notably in the press – heaped the most disgraceful attack on West – and by implication upon President Trump for arranging the meeting.
It seemed like every host, pundit, panelist and contributor on CNN and MSNBC was committed to the most scurrilous attacks on West. They were not rebutting the issues he raised. Rather, it was a vicious ad hominem attack on West as a Black man.
Black Georgetown Sociology professor and racist raconteur, Michael Dyson, said West was a ventriloquist dummy with his “black mouth moving” but the words of Trump coming out. He declared West the victim of a mental health breakdown due to the death of his mother. He renamed West as “Kanye Mess” – even as he incredibly professed to be an admirer and friend of West.
The mental illness theme was shamelessly advanced by Public Urban Radio’s April Ryan and NPR’s Yamiche Alcindor – both Black journalists, Hardball’s Chris Mathews, of the tingling leg fame, compared West to a “drunken uncle at a wedding.”
These Democrats even brought up that old canard about a Black man not knowing his place. They jumped on his use of a profanity – and his attire – as disrespectful to the Oval Office. Yep! West just did not know his place.
While Dyson may have offered up the most over-the-top unhinged rant, CNN’s Don Lemon may have taken the prize for the most low-level attack. The entire event was so beyond Lemon’s grasp that he had to turn off the television before the end of the meeting.
In one of the most sickening attacks, Lemon said that West’s deceased mother – who West adored – would be “turning over in her grave” over his comments in the White House. Personally, I think she would have been very proud to see her boy sitting in the Oval Office across from the President of the United States. Just my thought.
Lemon insulted West’s intelligence and character by saying he was being used. West was gullible, stupid. It was an attack similar to Dyson’s ventriloquist dummy analogy. As if that was not disgusting enough, Lemon then wade in on the mental health issue by pleading with West to get help.
One hundred and fifty-two years after Lincoln invited a “Negro” to the White House, the Democrats still seem to have a problem with it. They fear Kanye West because he threatens their preconceived social order based on racial – no racist – definitions.