Last year Panama Jackson, a man who, in the 14 years that we’ve known each other, has become one of my best friends, published a piece about his mother’s support of Donald Trump, and revealed how that ruined his relationship with her.
Deciding to write this was very difficult for him; we had countless email, text, Gchat and phone conversations about how his mother’s politics affected him as he also wrestled with whether to put those thoughts in print.
Included in his piece was a revelation that his mom wore a “Make America Great Again” shirt in his house:
The next day, my mother showed her entire ass. She basically became Trump, in my own house. My mother decided to don that bright-red “Make America Great Again” T-shirt and asked me to take her out to places while she had that shirt on, putting me in a position of having to appear to support Trump’s election. Again, I put my pride to the side. It’s my mother. She birthed me.
But this is when our relationship hit the point from which I realized we’d never fully recover. When we were getting in the car to head to Rockville, Md., she asked why I found the T-shirt offensive. I told her that by her wearing that shirt, it showed that she didn’t care about my life or those of her grandchildren or daughter; after we argued, she refused to speak to me for hours, again.
I misspoke a bit earlier. “Wrestle” shouldn’t have been in the past tense. He is still wrestling with that decision. He is still troubled by what he believes his mother forced him to do. He is still bothered by the thought of his piece hurting his mother’s feelings, because while she did what she did, she’s still his mom. But he knows he did the right thing.
I do not know if Kanye West is aware of the anger and the fury and the disgust and the terror that that slogan, along with the shirts and hats and bumper stickers it’s plastered on, induces. I also do not know, as some have suggested, whether this is an elaborate publicity stunt or troll. I do know, however, that I don’t give a fuck.
Intent doesn’t matter as much as action and effect. And Kanye’s recent actions have shown, in a clear and unambiguous fashion, that he doesn’t care about black people. Black people who have supported him and amplified him and even shielded him from and defended him against the type of people he’s aligning himself with. Black people who watched him grow from the person with the name we didn’t quite know how to pronounce who kept getting production credits on Jay-Z and Cam’Ron tracks to arguably the most important person in hip-hop. Black people who made him.
Black people like Panama, who, again, ended a relationship with his own mother because of what her support of the man whom Kanye just called one of his “favorite people” represents.
When this—whatever the fuck it is that he’s doing—backfires on Kanye (and it will), some black folks will still be there to lift him up. Or perhaps to help cushion his fall. Not because they are gullible or weak, but because they’re aware of the pathology of white supremacy, and they possess an empathy for someone who allows himself to be so infected by it. And also because he meant that much to us before he turned.
I guess that’s the irony here. He will never be as loved by them as he was by so many of us.
And yes, “was” was intentional. I didn’t misspeak this time.