Stop Calling Kanye — Or Anyone Else You Disagree With — 'Crazy'

It's not okay, and it's not helping.

Kanye West's Twitter posts this week have resulted in a common refrain among people on social media: the Grammy award-winning musician is "crazy."

His tweets, some expressing support for President Donald Trump, drew up such a fervor that his wife Kim Kardashian West felt the need to speak out. Kardashian West explained that it wasn't just wrong to say West was going crazy, it was also offensive to people who have a mental illness.

"To the media trying to demonize my husband let me just say this... your commentary on Kanye being erratic & his tweets being disturbing is actually scary," she said in a series of tweets. "So quick to label him as having mental health issues for just being himself when he has always been expressive is not fair... Mental Health is no joke and the media needs to stop spitting that out so casually. Bottom line."

And she's right: far too often Americans are quick to describe someone as "crazy" simply because that person expresses a thought or feeling they find disagreeable. I'm guilty of it myself. I'm sure over the years I've called plenty of public figures "crazy" just because they did or said something I found absurd. I've done it to my friends, too.

But I was wrong when I did that. And anyone doing it to West is wrong now, too. 

It's not just unfair and dangerous to claim someone has mental health issues in the public square, it's also unfair to the people who are actually struggling with mental health issues. Calling someone crazy is dismissive and degrading just as calling something that you dislike "gay" is dismissive and degrading to the LGBT community. We should stop — all of us.

Almost as important as considering our language is considering whether it accomplishes what we want it to. Surely, anyone who is taking the time to call West "crazy" or "erratic" online or in a news story is doing it because they disagree with his stance. Some may be reading deep into his admittedly captivating Twitter spree, but others are calling him "crazy" because they can't understand why an African American man is expressing support for a president most Americans think is racist.

While I happen to find West's support for President Trump confounding, too, I also know attacking him belligerently is not going to change his mind.

Here's some free advice: try John Legend's approach. A Grammy-award winning musician himself, Legend didn't attack West's mental health or question his "erratic" tweets. Instead, he approached West thoughtfully — he told him to consider how his words appeared to his fans, to think about the people of color who are affected by Trump's policies. 

Did it convince West to change his mind? No, not exactly. But West ended up tweeting his words out to the world, and the two managed to have a loving, caring, intelligent exchange. All without denigrating people who struggle with mental health.

It'd be nice if the rest of us tried that, too. 

Cover photo: Shutterstock / DKSStyle

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