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Kanye West, Controversy By Appropriation

Kanye West’s at it again, selling the Confederate flag at his concerts, looking to undercut a divisive old symbol – and sell t-shirts. We’ll look at Kanye West and the Confederate Flag.

In this Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013 file photo, recording artist Kanye West speaks onstage during the 17th Annual Hollywood Film Awards Gala at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. West is postponing the rest of his “Yeezus” tour after a 60-foot LED screen used during his shows was damaged. The use of the Confederate flag on his tour merchandise has stirred controversy. (AP)

In this Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013 file photo, recording artist Kanye West speaks onstage during the 17th Annual Hollywood Film Awards Gala at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. West is postponing the rest of his “Yeezus” tour after a 60-foot LED screen used during his shows was damaged. The use of the Confederate flag on his tour merchandise has stirred controversy. (AP)

Hip hop artist, superstar Kanye West is definitely a self-promoter and a provocateur, whether it’s saying George Bush doesn’t like black people, or dissing Taylor Swift, or just the lyrics of his latest Yeezus album:  “I am a god, I am a god.”  But it’s what this famous black man is selling on tour right now that’s got a debate going:  Kanye West is selling and wearing the Confederate flag.  Taking the symbol of rebellion and white supremacy and saying he now owns its.  It’s his.  Re-appropriated.  Defanged.  Really?  Up next On Point:  Appropriating tough symbols.  Kanye and the Confederate flag.

— Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Jon Caramanica, pop music critic for the New York Times. (@JonCaramanica)

Tracy Clayton, writer and humorist, staff writer at BuzzFeed. (@BrokeyMcPoverty)

Marc Anthony Thompson, singer-songwriter. Albums include “Black Yankee Rock,” Swansongs,” “GodMusic,” and “Black Music.” (@ChocGenInc)

John McWhorter, professor of linguistics and Western civilization at Columbia University. Author of “Language Hoax: Why The World Looks The Same In Every Language,” “All About the Beat: Why Hip-Hop Can’t Save Black America,” “Defining Creole” and “Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold Story of English.”

From Tom’s Reading List

USA Today: Kanye, Confederates and race — “As a black artist embracing a symbol often used by white racists, Kanye forces the viewer to understand the symbol in a different light. Transforming a symbol of hate to love or vice versa is a part of a complex, underappreciated and sometimes-misunderstood history of re-defining symbolic images through a process of appropriation”

The Root: Kanye West’s Ego Can’t Change History — “You’ve probably read stories of students wearing the flag to school, the flag being waved at the gates of the White House and the “that’s not what it means” debate. Is it Southern pride or the symbol of American oppression’s past? Most Americans have the common sense or at least the common decency not to parade the flag around, even if they agree with its supposedly controversial meaning. Enter Kanye West.”

UPTOWN Magazine: Why Kanye West’s Confederate Flag Is Awesome — “The reason Kanye’s Confederate flag is absolutely awesome is because he’s attempting to appropriate the LARGEST symbol of white power, privilege, and racial dominance known to African Americans.The Confederate flag is not only a symbol of slavery, lynchings, and Black oppression, but it is also a cherished symbol of white southern pride for many people who still have backwards and prejudiced hate for Black people.”

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