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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings


Yesterday, I listened to an episode of Lex Fridman’s podcast that featured Kanye West. While there were many topics worth exploring, I anticipated the response from people regarding Fridman, of Jewish heritage, interrogating West about the rapper’s recent controversy concerning alleged antisemitism.

Before I go further, allow me to self-disclose that I’m a fan of West’s music—at least his earlier work. Among my favorites from the entertainer is “Everything I Am.” If he never made another song, he has my respect for that track.

I’m able to separate the artist from the art, though I know many people profess the inability to do so. Some may even claim that by not condemning West’s recent antics, I’m somehow tacitly supporting his personal perspective.

To that, I say, “People talkin’ shit, but when the shit hit the fan, everything I’m not made me everything I am.” Shit-talk all you want, yet your attempt to should (shit) on me isn’t sanitary or welcome.

That stated, I can appreciate a skillfully crafted troll—“A joke disguised as an outrageously stupid statement or question, intended to trap people into believing it is serious.” For instance, in 2019, people around the world posted in various mediums, “Islam was right about women.”

Normies” didn’t know what to make of the message. The checkmate critique of modern feminism simply implied that feminists who aligned with Islam, a faith some believe is antithetical to the tenants of feminist ideology, were behaving in a manner contradictory to the feminist movement.

If Muslims are believed to maintain a hierarchal view of sex or gender, and feminists were allying with or supporting practices related to Islam, these opposing principles were thought to be mutually exclusive. (A joke isn’t nearly as thought provoking if needing to be explained.)

Some individuals may gasp at my mention of trolling, because it’s popular for people to rigidly demand fealty to trendy sociopolitical movements. However, you didn’t find me posting a black square of solidarity in 2020, nor will you witness me refraining to criticize feminism.

I see no value in doing what others demand I should, must, or ought to. Moreover, I appreciate critical thinking and the ability to consider differing perspectives.

Therefore, when West recently donned “white lives matter” (WLM) apparel, I was fascinated to observe how people responded to the evident troll. Not unlike when Andres Serrano revealed Piss Christ to the world, people lost their ever-lovin’ minds.

In 2020, I was reliably informed, “Black lives matter doesn’t mean other lives don’t matter.” Ergo, outcry over a WLM shirt—using the same logic—wouldn’t mean other lives don’t matter. It’s an obvious troll.

Of course, I don’t have to condemn or condone the content of a troll. Rather, as one who practices Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) and who maintains biracial identity (black and white), I can appreciate consideration of logical and rational implications regarding those who experience the consequences of their beliefs.

The REBT ABC Model is used to dispute irrational beliefs. After all, it isn’t the wearing of a WLM shirt that causes others to become angry. Rather, it’s what one tells oneself about the WLM shirt that leads to anger.

The ABC Model is framed as follows:

(A)ction – What occurred

(B)elief – What you told yourself about (A) that resulted in (C)

(C)onsequence – What you felt (emotion or bodily sensation) about what happened and what you did (behavior)

(D)isputation – How you might challenge (D) what you told yourself (B), which led to (C)

(E)ffective new belief – What (E)ffective new beliefs you can tell yourself rather than using unhelpful or unhealthy narratives (B).

REBT maintains that rather than an A-C connection, we disturb ourselves with beliefs—B-C connection. As a formula, think of it as follows: A+B=C÷D=E.

In the current blog entry, I won’t get into the nuances of how disputation works. If you would like more in-depth understanding about my approach to REBT disputing, I invite you to review blog entries listed under the Disputation portion of my blog.

I anticipate someone coming forth and saying, “Ackchyually, in 2016, the Southern Poverty Law Center linked WLM to racist groups.” Allow me to be clear, this blog entry isn’t intended to avow or disavow any sociopolitical position.

For those willing to push through discomfort as a means of achieving growth through understanding, I think it’s necessary to do as Fridman did by hosting West to a discussion. This is the Daryl Davis approach to bigotry.

Davis, a black man, was successful at engaging in dialogue with many KKK members—some who wound up disavowing the organization. When asked what led to his decision for venturing down this path, Davis said he began by asking, “How can you hate me when you don’t even know me?”

Personally, and though I can appreciate some challenging trollery, I’m not fond of racism, antisemitism, or many other isms (that includes feminism, misandrists of the world). Nonetheless, I am thankful for living in a country that allows free speech—for now.

West’s alleged antisemitism isn’t anything new to hip hop. It has occurred for years. In 1990, Public Enemy released an album entitled Fear of a Black Planet.

The track “Welcome to the Terrordome” sparked controversy for the lyrics, “Told the rab, get off the rag,” “So-called chosen, frozen,” and, “Apology made to whoever pleases. Still they got me like Jesus.”

Regarding the song, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, then associate dean of Los Angeles’ Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, remarked, “The song is definitely anti-Semitic.” West was around age 13 when the song was released.

In 1991, Ice Cube dropped an album entitled Death Certificate which featured the song “True to the Game.” It was rebuked by Cooper for allegedly threatening and promoting violence, particularly regarding “a Jewish music industry figure.”

Lyrics included, “Ya’ wanna’ put a white bitch on your elbow. Moving out your neighborhood, but I walk through the ghetto and the flavor’s good. Little kids jumping on me, but you, you wanna’ be white and corny. Living way out, ‘Nigger, go home,’ spray-painted on your house. Trying to be white or a Jew, but ask yourself, who are they to be equal to?”

West was around age 14 when this song was released. The point I’m making is that West didn’t introduce perceivably anti-Semitic content into hip hop culture. He likely never saw the inside of a studio by the time the aforementioned albums were released.

I’m not implying that because bigotry against a particular group existed in the early ‘90s, West’s recent comments are excusable. I’m not here to say who is right, wrong, good, bad, or otherwise.

Similarly, I’m not prepared to control the actions of others by declaring what they shouldn’t, mustn’t, or oughtn’t to do. Personally, I’d rather hear opposing views freely expressed so I may know who believes as they do.

In fact, I appreciate the sentiment of el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz who stated during a particular historical time—though not necessarily reflective of today:

“Don’t say, ‘The whites down South, whites up North.’ There’s no difference between whites in the South and whites in the North. Only, the whites in the South aren’t hypocritical about it. You don’t find any more inter — there is just as much social intermixing in the South as there — between the races as there is in the North. Only in the South, they let you know where they stand, and in the North they take a hypocritical approach or attitude or reaction.”

I, too, would rather know where people stood. This includes when they espouse viewpoints with which I disagree. This includes rappers. This includes West.

Though perhaps often misattributed to Voltaire, I agree with the quote, “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” After all, this is in accordance with the REBT practice of unconditional acceptance.

To Fridman, I say, “Yay!” He masterfully interviewed West and afforded the rapper an ability to show the audience why we may agree, disagree, or think nothing at all about views expressed during the podcast episode.

In particular, and though he’s not a psychotherapist, I enjoyed how Fridman used therapeutic techniques of reflection, empathic responding, and therapeutic confrontation. I was surprised how Fridman, after West expressed distrust of him, stated:

“But I gotta’ tell you, I have to be honest. I don’t…this is silly, because you don’t know me. But it hurt when you said you don’t trust me. You kinda’ lost me. I don’t think anyone’s ever said that to me. I don’t know man, fuck that! I’m not…I don’t care about views or clickbait or any of that bullshit. I just thought you were one of the greatest artists ever and it’d be cool to talk to you. And I just, I feel like you’ve got pain you’re working through. I never had anyone say that to me. I’m just being a mess about it, I guess. It’s fucked up though. But maybe it’s not” (starting at minute 2:01:13).

It was a wonderful example of open, honest, and vulnerable communication. Yay, Lex!

My favorite movement was when Fridman then expressed (starting at minute 2:08:48), “But I gotta’ tell you, anyone I’m close with, I work with, there has to be trust, there has to be love. And I think you’ve been burned quite a bit in your life.” He acknowledged West’s humanity.

How may you also acknowledge the humanity in others with whom you disagree? Are you able to hold difficult conversations? Or do you perhaps close sociopolitical ranks, label others as lost causes, and remain in a deafening echo chamber?

If you are looking for a form of therapy that can allow you to challenge discomforting beliefs with the consequence of patience akin to that of Lex Fridman when interviewing Kanye West, I encourage you to reach out using the contact widget on my website.

As a psychotherapist, and hip hop head from the old school, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.

At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!

Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW


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