Wake Up, Mr. West.

An open letter to Kanye West on #Kanye2020.

Should non-state actors such as celebrities have a say on International Relations and foreign policy or should we maybe leave politics to the politicians?

On the 5th of July 2020, Kanye West announced his 2020 United States presidential election campaign through Twitter. Speculations of West’s candidacy began when he first announced his intention to run in August 2015. An apparent challenge to go head-to-head with President Donald Trump. West tweeted: We must now realize the promise of America by trusting God, unifying our vision and building our future. I am running for president of the United States.

To begin with, running for president is not as informal as Kanye makes it seem. He would have to register with the Federal Election Commission, present a campaign platform, collect enough signatures to get on the November ballot and more. As it is he has missed the deadline to file as an independent candidate in 6 states already.

Running for presidency seems to have become a capitalist scheme rather than an individual rooting for justice and equality, with great leadership and genuine care for their country’s populace.

Non-state Actors + Global Politics

It is with no doubt that over the years non-state actors have been influential in global politics. A non-state actor refers to individuals or groups that hold influence and are wholly or partly independent of a state/sovereign. Non-state actors are inclusive of celebrities (by definition : a famous person, especially in entertainment or sport).

Celebrities have had a long association with the modern world of diplomacy. Some examples are Benjamin Franklin who tirelessly worked the French Court of Louis XXI as well as Lawrence of Arabia who remains connected to the Paris Peace Conference of 1919.

Celebrities place emphasis on global reach in terms of problem solving and pushing for activity where and when it is needed. They put in great efforts to end global poverty, to cancel debt, to expand programs of official development assistance and to focus on HIV/AIDS and other pandemic health issues. In this specific case, it has been reported that Kanye West has helped provide 300,000 meals to those in financial difficulty due to the Corona Virus in Los Angeles.

Concerns with Celebrity

However, celebrity involvement in politics can be rather problematic. Celebrities like Kanye West and Donald Trump lack legitimacy and the way in which they operate is populist (a political approach that strives to appeal to ordinary people who feel that their concerns are disregarded by established elite groups) in style.

Many celebrities like Kanye do not have any formal training, either academic or practical in the workings of diplomacy and their commencement is done without any extensive apprenticeship.

The messages they put out are often colloquial and the language use is undiplomatic. The site of diplomatic activity is unconventional and unlike official diplomats, celebrities cannot claim that they speak for a constituency, whether defined as a cause or a people.

So, Kanye (and anyone else who thinks running for president is a sort of wager) I urge you to think meticulously about your actions and the general public it will affect in the long run. Put ego, pride and money aside and consider the greater good of humanity.

Words: Lumkile Thobile Xaba (Instagram / Twitter)

“I am a 23 year old Black woman who just graduated Honors in International Relations from UCT. I am into creative writing and use this as my way to speak up and stand up for what’s right. I love debating and public speaking, and use these as a platform to speak and be heard.”

Feature image by Zoya Pon