Aside from his lyrical genius and ability to craft beautiful beats, rapper Kanye West has always been notorious for his unfiltered and often controversial speech. Most times, even I, admittedly, have been able to laugh at many of his comments, namely those surrounding Kim Kardashian’s now-ex boyfriend Pete Davidson, or “Skete.” This time, however, following his recent outburst of antisemitic remarks on social media and cable television, there is no doubt that Ye has crossed the line.
Said controversy all began with a tweet from Oct. 9, in which West claimed to his 31 million followers that he is going to go “death con 3 on Jewish people,” an apparent misspelling of “defcon.” The tweet sent shock waves throughout the nation, and shortly after, Twitter locked West out of his account. Rather than apologizing, West defended his statements in a Tucker Carlson interview, in which he said that the term “Jew” refers to the “the 12 lost tribes of Judah. who the people known as the race Black really are.” This belief stemmed from the Black Hebrew Isrealite movement, a Black supremacist group who echoes the long standing antisemitic rhetoric that claims Jewish people are not the true chosen ones of God and descendents of Israel, but rather imposters who have stolen the birthright of the Black people. Then, when West further doubled down on his initial “death con 3” remarks in an interview with Chris Cuomo Oct. 17, it became clear that his intentions were precisely what the frustrated public thought they were.
In this interview, he criticized the “Jewish underground media mafia,” noting that his tweet compared “black musicians sign[ing] to Jewish record labels and those Jewish record labels take ownership” to a form of “modern day slavery.” In a segment of Revolt TV’s "Drink Champs," he accused “Jewish Zionists” and the “Jewish community, especially in the music industry… of tak[ing] us and milk[ing] us till we die.” Though the episode was removed shortly after, numerous clips remain circulating through the internet. Thus, even if Kanye did not intend malice, his words are still dangerous to an impressionable online audience.
By falsely implying that all money-driven media and music executives are in fact Jewish, Kanye corroborates the antisemitic stereotypes of greed and control of financial institutions, which have been used to turn the masses against the Jewish community. In essence, as Kanye establishes the Jewish people as a group deserving of antagonism as well as envy, he inevitably places a target on their back, which as history tells us, is the last thing the Jewish people need.
As a result of Kanye’s recent outburst, Balenciaga, Vogue and most notably Adidas, the brand that produces his signature “Yeezy” shoe, have cut ties with the famous rapper. Reportedly, this has dropped Ye's net worth from $1.8 billion all the way down to $400 million. While Kanye has experienced a significant economic hit, he is entirely undeserving of anyone’s sympathy, for it is the Jewish people who must cope with real trauma since his comments have been embraced by numerous extremist antisemitic groups. During a sermon for the Nation of Islam’s annual Holy Day of Atonement commemoration Oct. 16, Student Minister Ishmael Muhammadagreed repreated Ye's recent remarks. Likewise, the Goyim Defense League, a white supremecist and antisemitic hate group, recently unfurled a banner above a busy Los Angeles freeway reading “Kanye is right about the Jews.”
What is even more unsettling has been Kanye’s ability to reach the American youth. Across TikTok in particular, creators have expressed their resounding support for Kanye in spite of — or perhaps because of — his antisemitic remarks. In Ye-related posts, statements such as “I stand with Ye,” “I love you Kanye” and “Protect Kanye at all costs” fill the comment section. In the comments for a TMZ interview of Kanye, user @80bars80scars states, “Standing for the truth is not an easy task … Ye is more aware than anyone else … Keep it up Genius,” @1800ashtray proclaims “He’s losing the fight, but winning the war!!;” and @oldheadmike718 states “He knows the industry. Most people here don't.” Each of these comments attracted over 1000 likes.
If we can take away anything from Kanye’s controversies over this past month, it is how essential it is for public figures to use their platform to spread love and peace rather than hate and bigotry. Because, the truth is, Kanye’s words have had an immense impact on Jewish communities across the nation. In fact, the FBI warned of a "broad threat" against New Jersey synagogues Nov. 3, forcing synagogues and Jewish institutions, such as all JCCs, to take necessary security measures. If this is not evidence alone that Kanye’s words are threatening, I don’t know what is.
Before I conclude, I will leave you on this final note: As a Jewish student raised in a largely Jewish community, I have long been sheltered from the antisemetic sentiment that still prevails to this day. Nevertheless, over these past couple of weeks, I have been enlightened to the hatred that looms in the undergrounds of society, possessed by many who, though afraid to speak out in public, will openly express their abhorrent beliefs behind the comfort of an anonymous username. With this in mind, it is essential that we continue to educate to remain informed and, most importantly, advocate for much needed change.
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