Kanye West and his artistic abilities won’t be the focus of this article — since this is one of the main arguments that his defenders use. Throughout decades, he broke records with his albums, stayed on top of parades and radio, and got thousands of people on his concerts on worldwide tours. And it didn’t stop him from having controversial attitudes.
The main topic here is how a public person can instigate bullying and mistake it for freedom of speech. In this article, we are going to discuss the recent acts of Ye — formerly known as Kanye West, and how he takes advantage of a huge fan base to spread hate.
The White Lives Matter T-Shirt & Why it is Dangerous
Lately, Ye has been pretty sure of his opinions online, whether it’s about the fight with Gap, or his personal issues with Kim Kardashian, his children’s mother.
But something negatively impressive happened in the last few days that started on the catwalks and took over his social media: Have you ever wondered about the purpose of strengthening a phrase that says “White Lives Matter”?
We can only think of one: contributing to erasing the Black Lives Matter movement in fighting racism.
Since 2015, “white supremacists in several states, especially members of the Texas-based white supremacist group Aryan Renaissance Society, have promoted the slogan as part of a loose campaign to popularize the phrase.”
On Paris Fashion Week, Kanye West hosted a surprise Yeezy show, showcasing his Season 9 collection. Before the models appeared, he gave a speech wearing a “White Lives Matter” T-shirt. His attitude raised opinions on the internet.
Even though it was “a joke,” as he said himself, considering his influence on the music and fashion industries, it doesn’t seem like the right thing to do. After all, a racist person can use Kanye’s attitudes to justify being… racist.
Gabriella-Karefa Johnson Openly Criticize Kanye West
Gabriella Karefa-Johnson is a stylist and global editor for Vogue. Seeing the phrase stamped on the t-shirt, she shared her opinion on social media. “Here comes the s***. I’m furious.” She described it as “indefensible behavior.”
Karefa-Johnson also said that while she could see how West might have considered the shirt a “Duchampian” provocation, “It didn’t land and it was deeply offensive, violent and dangerous.”
Raising such a topic without explicitly showing your critical points can cause people to develop their own ideas. Well, it is not wrong to instigate critical thinking. But polemical discourses involving social issues open the door to delegitimizing a real movement.
Kanye West showed his insensitivity in dealing with criticism.
He posted a photograph saying, “this is not a fashion person,” and mocking Karefa-Johnson’s shoes. Shortly after the comments, industry leaders supported Gabriella, such as Supreme Creative Director Tremaine Emory, Hailey Bieber and Gigi Hadid.
On the official Instagram account, Vogue shared they “stand with Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, our global fashion editor at large and longtime contributor. She was personally targeted and bullied. It is unacceptable. Now more than ever, voices like hers are needed and in a private meeting with Ye today she once again spoke her truth in a way she felt best, on her terms.”
According to a deleted post by the rapper, he spoke with Karefa-Johnson and they agreed to disagree. On the post, he referred to her as “my sister” and claimed the director Baz Luhrmann had filmed their meeting. “We are editing tonight.”
Social Media Responsibility on Hate Discourses
All of this happened on social media. Therefore, an important topic to consider is that there are platforms to disseminate these discourses and that they should be held accountable for them.
Besides bullying Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, on his Instagram, Ye said, “Everyone knows that Black Lives Matter was a scam,” and “Now it’s over. You’re welcome.”
And according to the New York Times, on Sunday morning, he went on Twitter and lashed out against Jewish people in a series of tweets. He said that he would soon go “death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE,” an apparent reference to the United States defense readiness condition, known as Def. Con. “You guys have toyed with me and tried to blackball anyone whoever opposes your agenda,” he wrote.
All of the Tweets were deleted, the platforms restricted West’s access to his accounts for a while and celebrities shared their thoughts on social media.
Furthermore, Ye used his Twitter profile to complain to Mark Zuckerberg for being blocked on Instagram. He posted an image where the two were enjoying a party together. In the caption, the rapper clarified his displeasure with Mark, saying he considered him a friend.
In conclusion, so far you’ve seen that he only says these things because he has a platform. Whether it’s Twitter, Instagram, an interview… He always gets the attention he craves. When the limits of respect are crossed and there is a violation of individual freedoms, he needs to be punished according to this platform, as happened on Twitter following the community rules.
But guess what? He’s back. And he was even welcomed by Elon Musk.
It is a Speech, But Should it be Free?
In this world, there are still people who defend that everyone is equal, but the truth is: we are not. There is a big difference in how white people and people of color are treated in society due to historical facts. In this way, bringing a controversial phrase in a shirt to the public’s attention is dangerous because it reinforces the idea that racism is not even “a thing.” In other words, it’s just another tool to weaken the community.
Therefore, every speech has its consequence and attitudes like this must be held accountable. We always encourage freedom of speech as long as it doesn’t hit another person in a cruel way. But it is unfortunate that a person that considers himself a musical genius is not racially aware of the world we live in.
The worrying risk is that he is an idol to conservatives and supremacists. Don’t you remember what he said in an interview a few years ago? He stated: “You hear about slavery for 400 years. For 400 years? That sounds like a choice. Like, you were there for 400 years, and it’s all of y’all?”
Recently, Ye presented an adult video at a meeting with Adidas, and according to PageSix, friends of Kanye said they are worried about him. Despite this, we are not judging if he exhibited worrying behavior regarding mental health in any of these actions previously mentioned. There is no justification for being sexist, encouraging anti-blackness and white supremacy, instilling anti-Semitic discourse, or making online bullying.
Playing with fame is a privilege, and not facing up to your responsibilities is dangerous.
Like this article? Then don’t forget to read this one: The Importance of Gender Parity for Women’s Empowerment.