Dave Chappelle once said,“The worst thing to call somebody is crazy. It’s dismissive. ‘I don’t understand this person. So they’re crazy.’ That’s bull****. These people are not crazy. They’re strong people. Maybe their environment is a little sick.” Stop calling people crazy because of how they say what they say. Stop dismissing information and wisdom because you don’t like the vessel or the vernacular used to deliver the message. When wisdom shouts to us in the streets, we’ve just got to listen. Vital lessons may be unobtainable because we are accustomed to receiving pearls of wisdom from a Martin Luther King Jr. instead of a Charles Ramsey.
Listen intently to what the person says who isn’t a good public speaker. Listen, before you write that person off as crazy. Today more than ever, ‘crazy’ is used as a dismissive term and not necessarily a diagnosis. News cameras flock to the inarticulate brother in the dingy shirt with the blue jean jacket and fro because they expect that individual to be candid and honest. Broken English is not an indication of a lack of intelligence. When people speak in fragmented sentences, one reason is that they’re thinking faster than they can compile sentences in their minds. Another reason is may be that they’ve had the conversation with themselves so often that they skip sentences or paragraphs that they assume the listener already knows. That guy or girl on the six o’ clock news may have a terrible command of the English language, but a keen sense of reality. He/She may simply be terrible at giving impromptu speeches but that however does not negate the validity of his/her ideas. Listen to the person who has something to say, but is terrible at saying it.
Case in point: Kanye West is the perfect example of a person who thinks faster than he talks, yet says things that we need to hear. So, let’s rewind back to Kanye and Sway for this brief journey. Imagine that you’re trying to get your own business off the ground. You’re selling, let’s say, t-shirts. You know these t-shirts will sell. You’ve got a household name and a creative gift. You set out to make business happen using your own money. First, you go to a factory to have the shirts made. They charge you an arm and a leg because of your name. Then, you invest your money with a distribution company to get the shirts packaged and shipped to vendors. Some stores won’t take them though because your last name isn’t Versace. No one will market and advertise your clothing because it may disrupt campaigns that they’ve already committed to push. Now, all you’ve got is a product and distribution, but no store to actually sell the product and no advertisement. This is sort of the scenario that Kanye describes in his interview with Sway Calloway.
Continue to imagine that you’ve got to pay the factory; you’ve got to pay the distribution company, but you’re not generating revenue. Finally, you say “forget it” and sell your fly shirts out of your trunk and they sell like chicken on Wednesdays at an HBCU. After having proven your worthiness, after the “powers that be” have taken notice, you get the opportunity to be mainstream. Nike, who already owns everything you need to be successful (factories, distribution, marketing, etc.) gives you an opportunity to be creative and you’re exponentially successful. After Yeezy’s success, your creativity and gift become commodities that another business entity owns, but won’t utilize. Imagine. That.
Kanye says in the interview with Sway he spent $13 million trying to break into the fashion world and was unsuccessful. It cost him $13 million to try and do it on his own. Imagine that you’ve been talking to yourself in the mirror about this situation for weeks, months, even years. You’re in the shower, and some days the anger hits you while you’re scrubbing your armpits. “I spent $13 million and didn’t make a dent in the system,” is what you scream as the water runs. After that fortune is blown and you’ve healed and mended the resulting brokenness and frustration, Sway asks you why you need other people to be successful and You–Blow–Up.
Coupled with his concert rants, Kanye West became an ice-breaker. Instead of talking to someone on an elevator about the weather, folks would lead with, “Did you hear what Kanye said last night at his concert? He’s crazy!” The deeper question is, “Why did Kanye say what he said?” Even better questions: “Was anything that Kanye said true? Did it have any value?” The only thing that many people took away from the interview with Sway was, “You ain’t got the answers, Sway, you ain’t got the answers!” Much more than that came out of Kanye’s mouth, but people didn’t hear it and dismissed it is as crazy.
Commentary about American society is often a victim of this phenomena. We spend endless hours assessing the circumstances of being American, or Black in America, or poor in America, or whatever. So much so, that when it’s actually time to talk about what’s wrong with America, we draw a blank. In Azealia Bank’s case, her emotions overwhelmed her to the point that intelligible words were no longer coming about of her mouth while speaking with the Hot 97 crew. She spoke so fast about music ownership, creative license, business practices, slavery, and beef that much of the interview probably falls on deaf ears. It is confusing in some instances, but legit. If I tried to dissect it all and write about it, I’d be writing a dissertation. We’re accustomed to respecting the “I Have a Dream” speech, not the speech delivered through frustration (West) or tears (Banks). However, the truth is coming through tears and frustration, it always has. Many of us have just given the tears and frustration little to no attention.
The conspiracy theorists and social misfits are dismissed as crazy although some of what they say has validity. Stop calling people crazy. Stop calling the lady speaking tongues in church crazy. Stop calling the wino on the block crazy. Keep your ears peeled for wisdom and don’t deny truth because of the vessel spewing it. Analyze it and be mindful that some people do tell lies and some people are uneducated, but everyone isn’t simply crazy for saying things that you don’t understand.