The Confederate flag is a symbol of racism and injustice to some, but apparently not to rapper Kanye West, who has incorporated it into his clothing line for his current Yeezus tour. West is selling his controversial apparel in a temporary shop on Melrose Avenue, next to his fiance, Kim Kardashian’s store, Kim’s Dash boutique. Perhaps he feels if he takes it as his own, and claims it, there will no longer be as much negative connotations behind it.
Kanye West, 36, was born in Georgia, which was one of the Confederate states. Georgia’s history is, in a very real sense, his history, and it’s the history of everyone who lives there or who ever has lived there.
On Saturday, in Los Angeles, Kanye West was seen wearing a green jacket from his clothing line with the Confederate flag sewn, as a patch, on the right shoulder of it. He was leaving a gym, where he had been working out and having a private boxing lesson, wearing a grey hoodie as well as the jacket.
Last Monday, in an interview with the radio station 97.1 AMP in Los Angeles, West gave his reasons for including the Confederate flag as a part of the merchandise he was selling.
While West admitted that the Confederate flag did represent slavery “in a way” he told People magazine that, after he wrote the song “New Slaves,” he “took the Confederate flag and made it my flag.” By making the Confederate flag his own, and reclaiming the symbol of the Southern Cross, he seems to be sending a message to both white people who use it as a symbol of hatred and racism and to black people who feel it is a symbol of slavery.
West said in the interview that people can react however they want to about his decision to use the Confederate flag on his Yeezus merchandise. He stated “Any energy you got is good energy.”
Ray West, Kanye’s father, was a member of the Black Panthers. In this respect, it doesn’t seem to make much sense that Kanye would use the Confederate flag on his apparel; yet, his argument about wanting to reclaim it and take away any negative connotations is a strong one. A symbol is, after all, only a symbol — it gains or losses meaning depending on how humans think about it, and react to it.
Unfortunately, groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups have taken it as an emblem representing their extremist viewpoints.
Besides the jacket West was seen wearing, the rapper has featured it on other merchandise, such as bags and T-shirts. How well the merchandise is selling is a matter of conjecture at this time.
One of the T-shirts at West’s shop sports a skull on it. The Confederate flag makes up the background. The words on the T-shirt are: ‘I ain’t comin’ down.”
Other T-shirts and a wall mural feature the flag along with a Kneeling, praying skeleton with the words “Yeezus Wants You” emblazoned on them.
Yeezus is Kanye West’s sixth album. In it, with songs like “Black Skinheads” and “New Slaves,” West deals with many subjects and themes, including racism.
Other rappers besides Kanye have incorporated the Confederate flag into their album covers, songs, and clothing. Andre 3000, Pastor Troy, and Ludacris are some examples.
However, other people, like the Reverend Al Sharpton, have criticized Kanye’s and other rappers’ choice to use the confederate flag in their songs and clothing. He has compared the Confederate flag to the swastika. Sharpton has stated that putting the Confederate flag on things like album covers and clothing is similar to “placing a swastika somewhere.” He added that the use of the Confederate flag in such a way is like you’re going along with a belief system “that looked upon Blacks as inferiors.”
Is the Confederate flag a symbol of racism, or is it one of Southern pride, reflecting their honor and history; or, is it both? Can taking a symbol of slavery, hatred, injustice, and slavery, and making it your own, also change the meaning of the symbol? Did Kanye West, in taking the Confederate flag and using it in his songs and clothing line, make the flag his own; or, was his doing so just an attempt to gain further publicity? Please leave your comments and opinions below!
Written by: Douglas Cobb