Kanye West and Marshawn Lynch are assholes. And that's revolutionary. Here's why:
(Before we dive into this, let me say this: this article is not about whether Kanye West or Marshawn Lynch are right or wrong in their opinions or actions. There are a myriad of other think pieces that explore those themes.
Whether Beck or Beyonce deserves that award is completely immaterial to this article, so if you're reading expecting rationalization or condemnation or either, this is not the place. I completely acknowledge that what both men engage in can be seen as crass, vain, or disrespectful. I simply want to explore why we view their actions as crass, vain and disrespectful.)
In one corner, you have Marshawn Lynch. Marshawn got in trouble numerous times last season for refusing to speak to the media. Or if he did, he only did so about the subjects he wanted to talk about (when he wasn't openly mocking them). He openly disrespected reporters and the NFL. He refused to answer their questions. He refused to acknowledge their presence. He refuse to look them in the eye. He completely disregarded their opinion of him. Numerous times.
Marshawn Lynch is an asshole.
In the other corner, you have Kanye West, easily the most controversial and critically applauded musician working right now, simultaneously. Kanye has made a career of making his personal opinion front and center, sometimes to awkward detriment of those around him. His brute honesty and outbursts have gained him the collective ire of millions, especially after his recent fiasco where he stated that Beck's 2015 Grammy win “should of gone to Beyonce.”
He also implied that Beck “lacked artistry”. He almost even took the mic from Beck as a nod to his other infamous stage rush against Taylor Swift. He found a way to divert all attention from the winners of the Grammys to him and his personal opinion and vendetta.
Kanye West is an asshole.
In a really odd way, both men are two sides of the same coin. While their motivations may be wildly different, the end result in both instances is the same: both are snatching back their agency as individuals in an entertainment industry that demands compliance with the party line.
Marshawn doesn't speak when asked to speak. Kanye speaks when he isn't asked to speak. Both men are asserting insane amounts of social power, because neither can materially be punished for these outbursts or lack thereof.
The NFL fining Marshawn is a drop in the bucket compared to the money that he's made by becoming a household name for his antics. “I'm just here so I won't get fined” has become a slogan unto itself.
Kanye West has figured out a way to incorporate his brashness and vanity into his art, so his millions of fans don't find it offensive and sort of understand his motivations, so nobody who previously supported him is running to the hills and burning their CDs.
At one point in time in this country, acting out against management like Marshawn and Kanye have been doing as minorities would have seen them blackballed out of their respective industries. For most of us, if we piss off our boss, we get fired. The only way Marshawn and Kanye can act the way they do is because they know that they make their bosses way too much money, and that they aren't actually doing anything objectively damaging. They aren't selling drugs or killing anyone. They're just being douchebags. Being a douchebag is the biggest crime you can commit in the public's eyes without actually committing a crime.
It's the perfect crime.
Marshawn and Kanye know they can't be touched, and they're flaunting their new found power. They're dangling the fact that you can't make them jump when they wanna jump in front of your face, and it infuriates us. They completely disregard how we feel, and we aren't used to that. We're used to people in power pretending that they care about our opinion. We're used to the people in power coddling us and telling us what we wanna hear. The entire concept of “political correctness” is based around this idea. So when two men like this step into the fray, it puts the whole system into whack.
In America, as a black male, more than anyone else you are required to not ribble rabble, because people find you scary and intimidating even before you open your mouth. Ask Richard Sherman. He called a receiver on a rival team in a violent sport that cuts 10 years off your life “sorry”, but because he didn't use his don't-scare-white-people voice, he got dragged through the mud for it.
Ask Jameis Winston what happens when you're black on TV and get too excited. Jameis Winston gave one of the most powerful postgame interviews in recent years but the only thing anyone wanted to focus on was his heavy ebonics. So knowing that everyone is sitting around waiting to judge you for acting “too black”, why would Marshawn, a born and bred homie from Oakland, put himself in a position to be skewered like that for being himself?
Marshawn and Kanye basically have opposite approaches to the same problem: the problem being society telling you how you should talk, or what you should say, or how you should feel. One decided to completely cut the mic off, while the other decided to snatch it away. What they say or do after that is honestly immaterial, because the real protest was the fact that they had the balls to fuck with the microphone in the first place.
As a black male, your autonomy is threatening because you're unpredictable. You don't tow the party line. You're disrespectful. You don't do what we say, when we say it. You step out of line. You fuck up the pecking order of white supremacy. Who do you think you are you guys, the American government?
You're not allowed to be an asshole Kanye West, only the American Government is allowed to do that. Only we're allowed to disparage innocent people on TV, call them stupid, or savages, or thugs, or deviants, or lazy, or welfare queens. Only we're allowed to campaign against people we don't know for our own personal gain and vanity. Only we're allowed to voice a hurtful and hateful opinion and hide our douchiness behind the smokescreen of free speech. Only we're allowed to discredit the hard work and contributions of others because it doesn't fit our personal narrative.
The right to be an asshole is a power reserved for the demographic already in power Kanye and Marshawn. Sorry.