As Kanye’s breakdown unfolds both on and off the screen, we have to remember mental illness should never be the butt of your joke.
(Kanye West at his presidential campaign rally in Sourth Carolina)
Good morning. Wake up, Internet. It’s been an interesting two weeks for Mr. West.
The internet has seen Yeezy make and break a partnership deal with GAP, announce a presidential run on the “Birthday Party” platform only to abandon it a few days later, hold a campaign rally (is he running or not?), release, delete and re-release an album tracklist, fuel divorce rumors and have a mental breakdown on Twitter.
Are you out of breath? I am.
Just one day after his South Carolina campaign rally on Sunday — where he said Harriet Tubman didn’t truly free slaves and hysterically shared that he and Kim Kardashian West almost aborted their eldest daughter, North — Kanye took to Twitter to share his outrage. Many of his tweets from the night were deleted within an hour and the tracklist for his album DONDA, set for release on Friday, was posted. Naturally, the internet was more confused than ever before, but it's also raising eyebrows on Kanye’s mental health.
Kanye is no stranger to Twitter fingers. He’s conjured up countless threads in the past, ranging from details on his albums to how terrible Drake is. So, it made sense that the rapper took to Twitter to decry his wife and mother-in-law for urging him to get treatment for his bipolar disorder.
(A screenshot of Kanye West's since-deleted post on Twitter on Monday night)
Kanye has been open about his diagnosis since the release of his album Ye in 2018, stating more than once that refusing to take his medicine makes him more creative and that his mental illness is his superpower. Usually, fans simply shrug at his remarks. However, something shifted Monday night when the internet realized this was much more serious than before.
For once, it wasn’t just a random string of tweets, but rather, a culmination of his cry for help over the last few weeks.
The rapper’s tweets included claims that the thriller Get Out was about him, self-comparisons to Nelson Mandela and a screenshot of a Google search for righteous indignation — “typically a reaction emotion of anger over mistreatment, insult, or malice of another”.
For some Kanye fans, his campaign speech and Twitter posts have only increased their appreciation for how the rapper doesn’t shy away from raw emotion –– even if it is a little bit confusing at times.
For other fans, Kanye’s real-time episode is just another joke for Reddit karma.
While some corners of the internet flooded Kanye’s mentions with photos of Kim Kardashian’s sex tape and memes mocking his breakdown, the general consensus was that mocking the man’s mental break wasn’t okay.
Full disclosure, I’m not the biggest Kanye fan. Although Runaway may be the greatest song ever created, one has to recognize that Kanye has made anti-Black and misogynistic statements, propelling some members of his fanbase to do the same. The discourse that surrounds his "free-thinker," status is questionable at best and dangerous at worst. There's no excuse for that, and I'm not attempting to create one.
However memeing a man who is clearly having a massive mental breakdown instead of advocating for his health and safety isn’t it. Personal opinions aside, mental health shouldn’t be the butt of your joke, even if the person is problematic during their manic episodes.
Because here’s the shocking part: you can think Kanye’s past remarks are unacceptable without giving into a damaging stigma surrounding mental health and lack of equal access to treatment, especially towards Black men and women.
Culturally, mental health problems can be considered a sign of weakness within the Black community. Years of institutionalizing Black people with mental illnesses placed distrust in the medical system and it doesn’t help that the system’s racial biases today make Black people with bipolar disorder at a higher risk of being misdiagnosed than any other race. For Black Women especially, doctors don't believe their pain, leading to higher mortality rates as women have to fight the racist stigmas rooted in the medical field.
Of course, Kanye benefits from immense privilege from his fame and wealth to receive help from the best of the best, but attacking a man who’s already feeling trapped probably won’t encourage him to seek this help. And, it doesn’t help the thousands of others with bipolar disorder, either.
It feels like now is a good time to bring up Azealia Banks, creative genius and problematic queen. Soon after Kanye's breakdown when the internet began to feel pity, many Black women called the demonization of Azealia into question, another woman who's been heavily clowned on for her frequent scandals, also attributed to Azealia's bipolar diagnosis.
The disproportionate treatment of a Black male billionaire and a Black woman is especially telling. How does the internet treat those who aren't celebrities? There's a lot to unpack in regards to the treatment of mental health based on socioeconomic status, We can get into the whole dangerous "crackhead," discourse, but I'm saving that for another time.
So while you may be “worried,” about Kanye, think twice about liking that subpar meme. It certainly doesn’t get Kanye the treatment he needs and only serves to make a mockery of the millions of people living with mental disorders across the world. Yeah, you may giggle, but when it comes down to it, you’re doing more harm than good.
Ana Escalante is Rowdy Magazine's Editor-in-chief. She likes podcasts, comfortable sneakers and yelling about being a Capricorn. You can reach her on Twitter @AEscalante22 or email her at email@example.com
Online Editor Lauren Rousseau contributed reporting to this article.