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Kanye pulls a Kanye at his first presidential campaign event, triggering outrage by criticizing abolitionist hero Harriet Tubman

Kanye pulls a Kanye at his first presidential campaign event, triggering outrage by criticizing abolitionist hero Harriet Tubman
Kanye West kicked off his first campaign rally with an apparent attack on abolitionist hero Harriet Tubman, later explaining it was a dig at “white organizations” appropriating black icons. The context was lost on many, however.

Tubman “didn’t free the slaves, she just had them go work for other white people,” West said on Sunday at a rally in North Charleston, South Carolina. Some audience members responded by walking out, while others jeered the candidate.

Since the rapper was hopping from one topic to another, without providing any immediate explanation of his remark, Twitter users did not waste time tearing into the singer-turned-politician.

“Going for the anti-Harriet Tubman vote seems to be going to the right of Trump, which I didn’t know was possible,” an apparent #Resistance member said.

“He might as well go after Rosa Parks next,” another quipped.

Closer to the end of his speech, West made his Tubman point more clear: “I’m sick of black iconography being used by white organizations for us to look up to and say, `This is us.’” However, by then, the initial quote was already making rounds on Twitter, sending Tubman’s name trending.

One may argue that the controversy and response were Trump-esque – making incendiary statements that grab headlines, stir discussion and sound more reasonable after later explanation. However, in West’s case, the speech appeared to be so ill-prepared, if at all, that his attempt to clarify the Tubman quote hardly received any attention. 

West’s presentation was far outside the norms for a political rally, even in the Trump era. Wearing a bulletproof vest over a short-sleeved black sports shirt, he spoke incoherently at times as he paced back and forth in front of a small auditorium crowd, without a podium or microphone in front of him. He then had a question-and-answer session with supporters, which became even more disjointed and difficult to hear over the crowd noise.

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West rambled from talking about abortion – sobbing at one point while confessing that he and then-girlfriend Kim Kardashian, now his wife, considered not having their first baby – to a shortage of black business ownership and legalizing drugs.

West announced his candidacy on July 4, too late in the game to even get on the ballots in at least six states. His campaign has been met with skepticism, including speculation that he’s running to get publicity and sell more albums. Within a few days of his announcement, there were unconfirmed reports that he was already quitting the race.

If nothing else, today’s rally made clear that West is still running, for now.

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