Kanye West's hospitalization knocked the wind out of the entertainment world Monday, putting a prominent black face on mental health disparities in this country. Now a possible danger to himself, pride's poster boy is forced to face his demons head on.
Social media responses to Kanye's condition have ranged from, "It was only a matter of time," to "He never got over his mom's death," and "Kanye's been crazy." But as we try to pinpoint the root of Kanye's unraveling, we also need to offer him an apology. By "we" I mean the black community. Kanye is our brother, our son and one of our creative lights, and as that light slowly dimmed, we were nowhere to be found, opting to stand idle during his freefall from grace. For as much as Kanye failed himself and fans at times, the black community failed him.
While Kanye's breakdown is unfortunate, it comes as no surprise. "Post Graduation Kanye" has been a renegade of sorts, ranting to whoever lent their ear and raving about his unmatched genius. As his sound grew darker over the years, we were left with rations of the vibrant emcee we fell in love with and force fed his sorrow, anger and imbalanced approach to life. Without demanding different, we swallowed every bite, hoping things would taste like "All Falls Down" and "Jesus Walks." But we knew the menu changed, and we didn't object, eating anyway. With apathy as our Alka-Seltzer, we filled our bellies with Kanye's fury.
Kanye's music started to mean more to us than his life. We've excused years of outlandish behavior and outbursts to leach off his creative gifts. We've turned a deaf ear to his blatant cries for help, allowing his music to pacify us just enough to ignore his need. Selfishly, we've tried to cover his mental instability with "creative genius" labels, our apathy outweighing our ability to see him as human, to hear his heart pumping with pain.
This narrative is all too familiar and highlights how the black community has blindfolded itself in the presence of mental illness. Most of us know a "Kanye West," but we often fail to offer them help and support, because their conditions remind us we are not in control, and mental health has become the monster we've crawled under the covers to hide from.
It's the boogie man at the barbecue everyone avoids.
It's the elephant in the room that keeps crapping on the carpet.
It's the secret we've whispered in someone's ear using our "outside voice."
Kanye's mental setback reminds us the altar and spiritual remedies, although helpful, isn't the only pathway toward healing. It urges us not to surgically repair emotional and mental scar tissue with band-aids. I hope Kanye's breakdown reminds the black community of our need to tackle mental health issues with hope, open hearts and action.
I sincerely wish Kanye well. I hope he accepts the help he's offered, and I hope the black community becomes more sensitive toward mental illness, opting for awareness, advocacy and accountability instead of apathy.
See Kanye West's rant that occurred prior to his hospitalization: