By Allison White
American rapper Ye, formerly Kanye West, has reached a new milestone in his nearly two-decade-long career: he has sent it plummeting to rock bottom after posting an antisemitic comment on Twitter where he claimed he was “going death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE” in response to another controversy that took place five days earlier. The tweet reached the popular social media platform on October 8th and has since sparked conversations about celebrity accountability, ethics and morality. It shined a spotlight on the evidently present antisemitic behavior that remains in our society.
Just five days before Ye’s viral tweet, on Oct. 3 the rapper made headlines with a political stunt at Paris Fashion Week where he adorned a “White Lives Matter” sweatshirt at the high-end fashion show. The anti-Black Lives Matter and pro-White supremacy slogan caused a ripple in social media where users commented on the ethics of displaying said garments with a hate-speech-specific slogan. Celebrities took to voice their opinions, from actor Jaime Lee Curtis to fellow rapper Sean Combs. The ripple turned into a tidal wave when Ye first turned to Instagram, then Twitter, to share opinions of his own about the entertainment industry, which he believes to be monopolized by Jewish corporations.
This isn’t the first time West made antisemitic comments. Ye has allegedly paid a settlement to an ex-employee for voicing anti-Jewish conspiracies and praising late genocidal leader Adolf Hitler in the workplace in 2018. The ex-employee was backed by six other employees of the rapper. In an NBC News Reports write-up, one of the employees claims there was “more than one incident in which Ye praised Hitler or Nazis in business meetings.” NBC declined to state the date of the settlement. However, the incident shows that his recent antisemitic rhetoric is not the singular occasion that shows his problematic views.
“I mean a lot of my friends who are Jewish, they immediately felt unsafe,” said Ren Smith, a 25-year-old student who witnessed Kanye’s tweet firsthand. “It was a difficult situation to see because how do you showcase your support and make your friend feel they are wanted and it’s okay to be Jewish, you know? How do you make them feel comfortable in an uncomfortable situation? It was just out of the blue; but at the same time, it was not a shocker… cause it’s Kanye, or Ye, as he goes by.”
Smith referenced Ye’s past controversial behavior and affiliations. In 2018, the star showed his support for then-President Donald Trump. Trump ran a notoriously divisive presidency from 2017-2021 and helmed a slogan that successfully became a symbol for his presidency and in turn, the Republican party called: MAGA (Make America Great Again). In a report from CNN on October 11, 2018, Ye stated, “There was something about putting this [MAGA] hat on that made me feel like Superman,” despite the overwhelming disagreement that spawned from items donned with the slogan and the man who created it.
Twitter is a social media platform that, according to the Business of Apps website, allows 206 million active users—38 million of whom are in the United States—to share their opinions how they see fit, if they follow Twitter’s policies. However, these policies are expected to soon transform and fit the new company’s owner’s plan for expanded freedom of speech.
“There’s too much freedom on Twitter, especially now that Elon Musk is the owner of Twitter. Like don’t get me wrong, people are entitled to their feelings and thoughts, but when you’re like Kanye West and you’re making those types of comments, and so many people are backing you up, that is when you take the time to step back and be like ‘maybe not, maybe not.’ And I think it’s insane that so many people are getting away with this,” said Smith.
Ye’s viral Twitter post, though since deleted, has affected not only the Jewish community in general but also the younger generation in the community—this includes Danielle Ben-Israel, a 16-year-old Jewish student, who voiced her opinions on the issue. “I’m starting to get scared because if this guy can go up there and say stuff—and this is before Adidas had left him, and all the brands were blacklisting him—I was like ‘Okay, are more people gonna start saying things like this now? Are people gonna think it’s okay? Are they gonna believe this stuff? Are we gonna see another wave of antisemitism?’ You know it was pretty serious… a pretty big concern for me.”
Another cause of concern that derives from Ye’s antisemitic tweet lives in the middle, where he claimed: “The funny thing is I actually can’t be antisemitic because black people are actually Jew also,” successfully dragging the Black community into the spotlight alongside the Jewish community.
In response to the Black community’s unwilling addition to the antisemitism rhetoric, Ben-Israel stated, “He’s just trying to pit these communities against each other and like, not in terms of comparison or anything, but both groups have been through traumatic events, and instead of pitting them against each other, we could be like supporting each other and fighting the common enemy of whatever it is. And he’s just trying to create more tension and more hate, and I’m like ‘We don’t need more of that from anywhere right now.’”
The inclusion of the African American community opened fresh wounds that first appeared materialized with Ye’s Anti-Black comment about slavery in May 2018. During an appearance on the entertainment site TMZ, Kanye said, “When you hear about slavery for 400 years … for 400 years? That sounds like a choice.” The rapper faced backlash online from both peers and users of famous social media engines like Twitter and Instagram, ranging from musician Will.i.am to director Spike Lee who pleaded for the rapper to “WAKE UP” in a lengthy post on Instagram.
Ye’s alleged connection between the Black community and the Jewish community inspired insight into the relationship between the two communities that existed well before the rapper’s comments.
“All of these other companies, all these other races, all these other ethnicities, they are nowhere to be found when something happens to black people, and that’s so unacceptable. And no one is calling them out for that,” remarked Omar McDonald, a Black 35-year-old airplane mechanic and former fan of Ye. “We need to call them out. Like alright cool. This guy says one thing about you guys [Jewish companies], and you guys literally destroy his life. He said the most disrespectful s— in American history towards black people. ‘Slavery was a choice.’ And nothing was done about that. So, no, I actually don’t care how you feel… because he has done worse. America has done worse, and America has never spoken up.”
McDonald’s remarks echo the consensus made by the public that Ye did not face enough proper repercussions following his anti-black comment on slavery in 2018. One month after his comment, his then-new album entitled ‘Ye’ was released and quickly certified platinum in the United States of America by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) because of 1 million certified units sold. His latest album ‘Donda’ was also certified platinum, while the two albums after ‘Ye’ were certified Gold. On top of his music success, the rapper put out a three-part documentary on streaming service Netflix titled ‘Jeen-Yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy’ on January 23, 2022 and received a Primetime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Documentary Series. Ye’s comment on slavery did not bruise his career, but instead was lost in the hype of his cultural iconography.
“No more Kanye in the household, no more Yeezus, we’re not f—ing with you,” continued McDonald. “And then we have to take what we know in the popular outlet, social media, and stop using his name. Stop talking about him—or, you know what, let me not even use ‘him’ anymore. Let’s stop talking about ‘them.’ Whoever ‘they’ are that are detrimental to the culture. We gotta stop using our profile to you know let ‘them’ live. Every time we say ‘their’ name, we’re letting ‘them’ live. We have to write ‘them’ off completely and just eradicate ‘them.’ ‘They’ don’t deserve to be even in our presence or even be spoken on. We just gotta erase these people and keep on pushing.”
One of the mutual reasons observed in the public concerning Ye’s previous evasion from repercussions that affected his career in terms of profitability and credibility is his bipolar disorder—a disorder that affects 2.3% of Americans. In an interview with American television host David Letterman that debuted on Netflix in May of 2019, Ye opened up about his diagnosis which was made in 2016. Ye said, “When you’re in this state, you’re hyper-paranoid about everything… Everyone is now an actor. Everything’s a conspiracy. You pretty much don’t trust anyone.” Whether his mental disorder influences his thoughts, behavior, and speech remains a complex concern.
Smith laments, with a sigh: “I think that he just needs to seek help and learn that his actions have consequences, and he is learning that now with the amount of losses that he’s currently receiving. And does he deserve it…?”
The answer is up to you. Does he?