“Maybe for one of the first times in my life I understand how it is to feel humbled,” said Kanye West.
The Grammy Award-winning musician/designer/mogul was caught off guard by an extensive highlight reel that played during Monday’s BET Honors show, where he was set to receive the night’s biggest honor, the Visionary Award.
After expressing his humility, West, 37, launched into a moving 9-minute speech that touched on his experiences as a successful black man in America. He spoke of how “groundbreaking” it was to visit Minister Louis Farrakhan and witness the civil rights leader’s reaction to him discussing his relationship with “a woman not of color”—Kim Kardashian West, the mother of his child.
Then West discussed the wrongheaded societal expectations that come with being a black celebrity.
“At the barbershop and everything, I used to hear people always saying, you know, ‘When an entertainer go on, you know he’s going to go on and get a white girl,’” West said, echoing a line in his hit song “Gold Digger.” “‘And the white girl gonna go get a rich black dude.’ I want to say that my wife has dated broke black dudes, so it ain’t got nothing to do with the money.”
He continued: “It takes me back to a story that [Kim] told me where her father, Robert Kardashian, walked out and on the side of his Bentley they wrote ‘N***** Lover,’ because Robert Kardashian was the genius that put together the defense team that got O.J. off. She had never seen her father curse, get mad—he was the most laid-back human being—and he went so crazy and tried to chase the people down. And she stood there crying and said, ‘Dad, why are you going so crazy?’ and he said to her, ‘One day, you may have a black child. A beautiful, beautiful, beautiful black child. And it’s gonna be hard. You’re gonna see how hard it is.”
Time and again, West has railed against the “glass ceiling” that keeps black celebrities like him from achieving a certain degree of success—the ability to graduate from being a star performer to an “owner,” or mogul. People tend to deconstruct West’s speeches as misguided “rants” instead of focusing on the larger picture.
“So, true enough, we deal with racism because there are different races, or the micro of it is that we focus on the different races, as opposed to the macro, which is the human race,” said West. “The bitter sound bites that everyone loved from last year that got taken out of context or misunderstood did come from a place of saying, ‘Yes, part of the reason why I’m not allowed to be in power is because of race, because of people’s perception of celebrity, because all they want to present to young black men is the idea of making it to the league or making it to be a rapper, but not the idea of becoming an owner.’ And they would do anything they can to make it seem like a truthful idea is a stupid idea, or a crazy idea.”
Watch the entire speech below: