Monday, September 15, 2014

Hey, Kanye West: Being closed-minded is a disability, too

"I can't do this show until everybody stand up," Kanye West told his concert audience in Sydney on Friday night. "Unless you got a handicap pass and you get special parking and s**t."

This is not a guy known for his tact, but this weekend it was his ignorance that made headlines.

The concert was the last leg of Kanye's Yeezus tour. As you can see in the video, after most people stood Kanye noticed two people still seated and called them out, refusing to get on with the show until they got up. It's hard to see in the video but the Daily Mail Australia has a photo of a person waving a prosthetic leg as proof. "OK, you fine," said Kanye, like he was...Yeezus. After his bodyguard confirmed that another person in a wheelchair couldn't stand, Kanye went on to perform.

Kanye had the same mandate at his recent Melbourne show, The Daily Mail reported, asking people to stand up "unless y'all sitting down because y'all handicapped."

The guy who posted the clip on YouTube called it a "misunderstanding." One commenter thought the clip was "taken out of context." Another said it was an "honest mistake."

Clearly, Kanye didn't realize that the people he'd spotted could not stand up. But his misunderstanding is beside the point.

How crappy of Kanye to call out his fans with disability and to exclude them on the basis of their physical abilities, a dishonor they paid for. He didn't think it might be insulting to say what he did, twice? He didn't care? He couldn't think of a cooler way to engage an audience? There are plenty of ways to show the love at a concert, although I guess having people shout or wave their hands or, heck, just show up wasn't enough to appease his ego. It was also seriously crude of him to define disability as anyone who gets "special parking and s**t."  

I have another definition of disability: being this closed-minded.

Kanye got good press a few months ago when he gave a mic post-concert to a guy in a wheelchair who couldn't see the stage. But one gesture (and really, it would have been more decent of Kanye to move the guy to a better seat) means nothing once you understand that his mindset is all wrong. This is a man who once rapped, "They tryna put me on the school bus with the space for the wheelchair," as The Daily Beast notes.

I haven't yet come across reactions from the people with disabilities who were at the concerts so who knows how much this did or didn't faze them, despite the disgust others have felt. Perhaps Kanye's publicist will encourage him to apologize (he's no stranger to apologies). At the very least, to look at ye olde bright side, this incident has gotten people talking and thinking about how people with disabilities deserve to be treated: like any other concert goers, like any other human beings.

Photo source: Flickr/Super 45 | Musica Independeniente 


  1. The fact that we're talking about this gives Kanye more publicity than he deserves but this sort of treatment needs to be talked about.

  2. Since the event happened at a concert in Sydney, Kanye's bad behaviour was all over the newspapers here today. But I could only laugh as even with tickets to his Brisbane show, on tonight, being sold for only 33% of the original price it still has many, many, many unsold tickets. Keep behaving the way you are Kanye and hopefully soon no one will turn up to see you perform. Now Kanye without an audience would make me really happy!! He's a disgrace.

  3. Oh I was SO hoping you would blog about this, Ellen! Everyone knows Kanye is a narcissist of the worst kind with zero tact or class, but this was a new low. Disabled or not, as human beings, EVERYONE should be appropriately horrified by his actions. When people are paying money to see you perform, you do NOT go out of your way to call attention to and humiliate them. I shudder to think how this man would act if he ever has a child with a disability and/or chronic illness. I hope someone is teaching his daughter tolerance and respect, because she's certainly not going to learn it from her parents. I also hope someone teaches her the value of speaking intelligently and using correct grammar.

  4. Kanye West is the biggest jerk in the town of jerklandia in the country of jerktopia (#soznotsoz)

  5. Never cared for him or his music but this just further demonstrates how far we as a society have to go in order to really get to acceptance and understanding. How is it that people like this get away with saying these things and acting this way? When will we finally and truly be treated as equal to others. I only hope I get to see this in my lifetime.

  6. Yet another piece of evidence that shows Kanye and Kim Kardashian deserve one another. The fact that these people are famous and idolized (by whom, I don't know) sickens me.

  7. The best response I have yet seen is from someone who works at a place that does self-defense for the disabled, which I just posted on Facebook. He wrote, "So long as I stay in my wheelchair Kanye West won't sing... There are perks to being in a wheelchair."

  8. He. Just. Doesn't. Get It. Not surprised!

  9. I was disgusted when I heard about this. Just another reason I don't listen to most of today's popular music. He certainly does lack tact, and yes he could at least speak properly. I cannot stand it when people do that.

  10. Allow me to play devil's advocate.

    The first time, he wanted everyone to stand up. It didn't cross his mind that some people cannot stand up due to disability. Because it didn't cross his mind, the people with disabilities were called out. Then, once he realized that some people can't stand up, he acknowledged, gave "permission," and went on with the show. Should disability have crossed his mind? Yes. But it didn't.

    The next show, what he said (in different, insensitive wording) was, "I want everyone to stand up, unless you are unable to." Did he say it in an insensitive way? Yes. But that's what he was saying. Because this time, he realized that some people are in fact unable to. So he ("graciously") provided the caveat.

    When he rapped ""They tryna put me on the school bus with the space for the wheelchair," that is a fact. He was referring to his childhood, when teachers thought he had special needs and tried to put him into special programs and onto the special needs bus.

    Is Kanye a narcissistic egomaniac asshole? Yes. Does he use insensitive wording regarding disability? Yes.

    But please note that while you're mad over his insensitive disability wording, your tone to some may also reads also as judging his use of African American Vernacular English.

    Regarding "He couldn't think of a cooler way to engage an audience? There are plenty of ways to show the love at a concert, although I guess having people shout or wave their hands or, heck, just show up wasn't enough to appease his ego.", it is SO COMMON for artists to ask EVERYONE to stand up during their performance. I don't think the criticism of asking people to STAND for his show is warrented. The way he stopped until everyone stood? Yes. But simply asking everyone to stand? No.

    It is important to always have disabled people in mind, of course. But he didn't. Once he did, he tried to amend it the second time around.

    I'm sorry, but people are REALLY, REALLY quick to judge Kanye. Yes, he's an asshole. But so are 99% of hollywood actors, actresses, and muscians. My point is, I think people are quick to judge Kanye because he is a black male. I also think they are resistant to giving his music and point of view a change because he is a black male.

  11. I don't like him or his music, but this made me hate it.


Thanks for sharing!

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