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In Defense of Ye

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Ye has once again taken to social media to share his opinions, this time regarding Pete Davidson’s relationship with Kim Kardashian.

Around 1:00 a.m. ET on Sunday, Feb. 13, Ye posted the first of his memes: an edit of “Captain America: Civil War” which depicted himself as Captain America and Pete Davidson as Iron Man. According to the meme, Ye’s allies are Drake, Julia Fox, Travis Scott, and Future. Conversely, Pete’s team consists of Kim Kardashian, Kid Cudi, and Taylor Swift. And after fans online assumed (incorrectly) that Billie’s recent comments about a fan’s safety at her concert were a dig at Travis Scott, Billie Eilish too became one of Ye’s enemies.

He captioned the post: “THE INTERNET HAS STILL NOT FOUND A DECENT PICTURE OF SKETE,” referring to Pete Davidson. Soon after, Ye posted another meme, this time an edit of Venom and Carnage engaged in a “fight night.”

The Instagram onslaught took a more personal turn on Valentine’s Day, when Ye leaked screenshots of his personal messages with Kardashian. In a text chain with “Kim Other Phone,” Kardashian said “U are creating a dangerous and scary environment and someone will hurt Pete and this will all be your fault.” In all caps, his caption read, “UPON MY WIFE’S REQUEST PLEASE NOBODY DO ANYTHING PHYSICAL TO SKETE I'M GOING TO HANDLE THE SITUATION MYSELF.” Fans and critics alike quickly called out Ye’s behavior and condemned the sharing of private information.

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Last Tuesday, Ye deleted his previous posts and uploaded what appeared to be an apology. The post included the caption, “I know sharing screenshots was jarring and came off as harassing Kardashian. I take accountability. I’m still learning in real time. I don’t have all the answers. To be a good leader is a good listener.” Unlike his previous posts, the caption appeared in lowercase instead of in all capital letters. Some might claim this is an indication that an external PR team got involved, or that he did not write the caption at all. Regardless, the post’s emphasis on growth and accountability demonstrates at the least an acknowledgement of his actions.

This is not the first time Ye has released a rapid series of posts on social media followed by a mass deletion. Notoriously, on January 27, 2016, Ye tweeted around 30 times in an hour due to a supposed altercation with Wiz Khalifa. This rant came about two weeks prior to the Valentine’s Day release of his seventh studio album “The Life of Pablo.” Many believed this to be a publicity stunt to raise awareness for the album.

With Ye’s next album, “Donda 2,” awaiting release on Feb. 22, some believe that this is once again an album publicity stunt; As the saying goes, all publicity is good publicity. While magazines cover his behavior and his posts are shared and retweeted, the name Ye is inserted into people’s minds and continuously appears in their feed. Come Feb. 22, even those unfamiliar with his discography will recognize his name.

But what if it’s not a stunt?

The media is no stranger to sensationalizing the mental state of celebrities for mass consumption. Take, for example, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, and Britney Spears. In this era of mass consumption defined by movies, television, fast food, and two-day shipping, celebrities bear the unfortunate burden of being treated as commodities for an eager public.

Still, in the same way athletes are told to “shut up and play ball,” musicians are basically told to “shut up and sing.” For many, their worth is determined by their level of entertainment. For musicians struggling with issues of mental health, like Ye, this tokenization is not only draining but also dehumanizing.

Ye famously opened up about his journey with bipolar disorder in his 2018 album “Ye.” The cover art of the album reads, “I hate being Bi-Polar it’s awesome.” Lyrics in this album include “I put my hand on a stove to see if I still bleed” and “I think about killing myself.” He cites his disorder as the reason for his notorious outbursts, including his 2018 TMZ interview in which he claimed “slavery was a choice.”

It is evident he is struggling at the moment and needs to be helped rather than laughed at. This is not to say leaking Kardashian’s private information and threatening Davidson was justified — it was not. But it is also unfair to tokenize Ye’s pain for clicks or enjoyment.

Furthermore, as the wealthiest Black artist in the country, his tokenization takes on an ever more complex role. The United States has historically commodified Black bodies as sources of entertainment. In the nineteenth century, vaudeville and minstrel shows — in which white actors donned blackface and reinforced racial stereotypes — were the most popular forms of popular entertainment. Early animation in the twentieth century, including “Tom and Jerry” and “Looney Tunes" also depicted racist caricatures of Black people for a laugh.

In recent decades, the media has taken the struggles of Black celebrities and appropriated them for sensationalism. Notably, Whitney Houston’s alleged drug addiction flooded the tabloids and led to barrages of rumors, leading to her famous 2002 interview with Diane Sawyer in which she stated, “I make too much money to smoke crack.” Last year, tennis player Naomi Osaka received international media backlash and a $15,000 fine for refusing press conferences at the French Open, a decision she claimed was for her mental health.

When Black celebrities struggle, their pain is too often plastered on the front page. Ye is the latest example. Rather than sensationalize and aggravate his manic episodes, it is necessary to treat him as a human being first — not least because he has children who will grow up to read exactly how their father is portrayed in the media. He has much to apologize for and many people to make amends, but he owes the media nothing. Yes, he is arrogant, abrasive, and constantly makes bad decisions — all of which could easily be avoided with a proper PR team — but his mental health struggles warrant an empathy the public often denies him.

—Staff writer A.J. Veneziano can be reached at aj.veneziano@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @aj_veneziano.

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