10 years ago today, Kanye West went on live television and told the world that George Bush doesn’t care about black people.
On September 2, 2005, four days after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the nation, in front of 8.5 million viewers, his sentiment reflected the frustrations of the American people in response to the failure of the federal government to provide aid to the thousands of victims of the category 5 hurricane.
“I hate the way they portray us in the media,” West said during the Concert For Hurricane Relief, NBC’s live broadcast to aid victims. “If you see a black family it says they’re looting, if you see a white family, it says they’re looking for food.”
At the time, the show’s producers and viewers dubbed the moment as controversial television. Today, it is considered one of the most iconic moments in television history.
Looking back ten years later, we can see how the rest of West’s speech was equally controversial to the George Bush line, as he criticized the Iraq war and acknowledged the disparity in the way media treats black victims and white victims.
Ten years later, #Bushdid911 broke barriers of conspiracy theory status to becoming a widespread Internet movement and joke in its own right. As the topic of police brutality and the killing of black people at the hands of the state have been brought to the forefront of political discussion, West’s ideas on the unfair media portrayal of black people are increasingly relevant today.
“We realize that a lot of people that could help right now are at war fighting another way—they’ve given them permission to go down and shoot us,” West said in 2005.
West’s veracity in that moment has become a casual topic in the realm of pop culture as well. Two nights ago at the MTV Video Music Awards, West announced he’s running for president in 2020. Jokes aside about the delivery of his speech, West’s raw emotions have cascaded into a cultural movement for a younger generation to fight to be heard.
“This is a new mentality. We’re not gonna control our kids with brands. We not gonna teach low self-esteem and hate to our kids,” West said at the VMA’s. “We gonna teach our kids that they can be something. We gonna teach our kids that they can stand up for theyself! We gonna teach our kids to believe in themselves!”
While West isn’t necessarily a master of delivery in these unplanned and sincere moments, maybe he doesn’t have to be, as long as we take a step back and listen.
What do you think about Kanye West’s role in American political discourse? Tell us in the comments below.