Addressing Kanye West’s multifaceted bigotry

Billy Bernfeld, Staff Writer

Nathan Rich

When it rains, it pours, as they say — but once again, Jewish and Black Americans are left without umbrellas.

Earlier this month, celebrity and rapper Kanye West — now known as “Ye” — was locked out of his Twitter account after posting a tweet that stated he was “going death con 3 on Jewish people,” in reference to the U.S. military readiness scale known as DEFCON.

Following this remark, Ye went on to blame “Jewish media” and “Jewish Zionists” for allegedly wronging him in the music industry, making references to a long-standing antisemitic conspiracy theory about supposed Jewish influence in media. He then made references to Louis Farrakhan, head of the Nation of Islam and notorious for his antisemitic bigotry.

Later on, in an interview with reporter Chris Cuomo, Ye doubled down on his hatred for Jewish people by claiming that he was “owned by the Jewish media,” once again reinforcing his beliefs in a bigoted conspiracy theory. He then argued that he is apparently being targeted by a supposed “Jewish media mafia,” adding fuel to the flames. In response to accusations of antisemitism, Kanye claimed that he could not be antisemitic because he “classifies” as Jewish, despite being neither ethnically nor religiously Jewish.

As an actual Jewish person, I can confidently say that Ye — a non-Jew — has no right or qualification to define antisemitism. His comments directly target and demonize an ethnoreligious group with which he has no direct connection. 

“I think it’s really difficult when celebrities, especially kind of cultural icons like Kanye West, have such, I guess, hateful commentary towards communities,” junior Anaya Rodgers said. “It gets to a point where you kind of wonder, ‘how can you contain the hatred that someone creates when they’re so powerful?’”

Following the fallout of his hateful comments, Ye was quickly de-platformed as brands such as Balenciaga and Adidas cut ties with him. While he claimed Adidas would not drop him due to his antisemitism, I am glad he was proven wrong.

In the wake of his de-platforming, Ye took another opportunity to incite hatred against Jewish people, tweeting, “Who you think created cancel culture?” He also went on to claim that Jewish people have “toyed with him” and that there is supposedly an “agenda” among Jewish people.

While I am not particularly invested in Ye’s life, I am aware of his struggle with mental health, particularly following his divorce with Kim Kardashian and his subsequent online harassment of her and those close to her. Despite his despicable actions, he is still human, and I do want him to get the help he needs. That being said, he is a grown adult and needs to take responsibility for his actions rather than scapegoating Jewish people. We are not responsible for Ye — only he is.

Once again, Ye is trying to deflect the blame for his actions onto the Jewish people, citing debunked conspiracy theories about secret agendas and “cancel culture,” both of which only exist in the minds of rambling conservative fanatics. Despite Ye’s fascination with Jewish people, I would rather not be roped into his downward spiral. Jewish people do not have any sinister agenda as he has claimed. Our only goal is to survive the endless attacks against us by people who hate us simply for existing.

When discussing Ye and how he was de-platformed so quickly due to his antisemitism, another issue comes to light: why hasn’t he been held properly accountable for his anti-Black racism?

“His anti-Blackness is difficult to contain because he’s in the Black community,” Rodgers said. “A lot of his commentary is against or targeting a group that he’s a part of.” 

In the past, Ye has made vile anti-Black comments, such as arguing that slavery was supposedly a choice and denying that George Floyd was lynched by Derek Chauvin in 2020.

“We have this person who has been such an icon in culture, American pop culture, et cetera for so long,” Rodgers said. “We’re kind of between a rock and a hard place [since] he’s saying these really hateful things.” 

Separating art from the artist is difficult, especially when artists like Ye have had such an impact on society.

“I think it’s gonna take society getting to a point where we decide that the music isn’t good enough to accept what he’s saying about our community [the Black community],” Rodgers said. 

Indeed, anti-Black racism is dismissed in our society, and there are few better examples than Ye maintaining his platform even after making racist comments about the Black community. “I definitely do think that anti-Blackness gets overlooked as something that’s just kind of a part of our regular daily experiences,” Rodgers said. “It gets way too normalized.” 

Bigotry takes many forms, each of them as ugly as the last. We as a community need to stand against hatred no matter who it targets. Condemning anti-Black and anti-Jewish racism are not mutually exclusive.

“I think that he should receive the same amount of backlash for his antisemitic comments and his anti-Black comments,” Rodgers said. “I think we should go a little deeper into his anti-black comments just because he is black.”

The impact of Ye’s antisemitic comments has been horrifying, although predictable. In the wake of the controversy surrounding him, the white supremacist group known as the “Goyim Defense League” hung antisemitic signs over the Route 110 highway, citing Ye to defend their vehement hatred of the Jewish people.

Meanwhile, professional basketball player Kyrie Irving recently promoted an antisemitic propaganda piece that aims to delegitimize Jewish identity and push a conspiracy theory that scapegoats us for the horrors of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. It relies on ideas based neither on historical fact nor intellectual honesty. The Jewish people, separate from European colonizers and white colonial powers in the Anglosphere, are not responsible for white supremacy. Being Jewish is completely different from whiteness.

While Jewish people have targets painted on their backs, one thing is certain: we need non-Jews to stand with us in the face of vile hatred. If you remain quiet, you indicate that you side with our oppressors. When people actively try to harm us, there is no excuse for silence.

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