Kanye West is Antisemitic

And nobody should be surprised.

David Shankbone, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Kanye West, now known as ‘Ye’, is a complicated and sometimes downright infuriating character. Years of musical and financial success have made him an icon of American social life, but with that icon status comes a massive level of scrutiny that Ye has repeatedly shown he is incapable of handling. That was on full display earlier this last weekend when he decided to tweet that he would go “…death con three on Jewish People.”

Screenshot of now deleted Tweet by Ye, dated October 8th, 2022

Kanye’s initial defense of the tweet resided within the post itself, asserting that “black people are actually Jew{s}” and that Jewish people “blackball” him for opposing their agenda. Prior to that, Kanye released texts he had with Diddy, a fellow rapper, accusing him of being controlled by Jewish people.

It is worth noting that this is not the first time that Kanye has made anti-semitic comments in the past, some of which he seemingly failed to understand.

Kanye’s prejudiced thinking about Jewish people goes nearly a decade. In a 2013 radio interview, the rapper and music idol commented on why he thought then-President Barack Obama was unable to get his agenda passed, saying:

“People want to say Obama can’t make these moves or he’s not executing. That’s because he ain’t got those connections … Black people don’t have the same level of connections as Jewish people. Black people don’t have the same connections as oil people.”

Kanye West on Barack Obama on New York hip-hop station Power 105.1.

The underlying implication of such statements is that Jewish people, by some unexplained power, have greater financial and political influence than black people solely on the basis of them being Jewish. Such a statement, though considerably tame compared to his recent Twitter post, is indicative of how age-old ideas about Jewishness and Jewish influence in public life have been treated as inherently insidious.

Indeed, Kanye’s comments provoked then-Director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman to condemn the comments, saying:

If the comments are true as reported, this is classic anti-Semitism…  There it goes again, the age-old canard that Jews are all-powerful and control the levers of power in government.  As a celebrity with a wide following, Kanye West should know better.  We hope that he will take responsibility for his words, understand why they are so offensive, and apologize to those he has offended.”

Former ADL Director Abarham Foxman, December 2, 2013

While these statements are arguably outdated, the concern about Jewish people being treated as a threat and a supposed cabal of insidious infiltrators with undue influence remains extremely pertinent.

Even after his prejudiced comments on Twitter created widespread denunciation, Kanye doubled down in an interview with the Drink Champs where he claimed:

“Jewish people have owned the Black voice… Either it’s through us wearing the Ralph Lauren shirt, or it’s all of us being signed to a record label, or having a Jewish manager, or being signed to a Jewish basketball team, or doing a movie on a Jewish platform like Disney. I respect what the Jewish people have done, and how they brought their people together.”

Kanye West on the Drink Champs about Jewish people

I could go into the many issues with these statements, but it would take far too long to explore every single prejudiced thing that influences Kanye’s thinking.

Instead, I will leave you with this. Kanye’s prejudice should not, under any circumstances, be used as a pretext to insult, disparage or otherwise otherize the black community. Kanye is his own man and he has long-established himself as a contrarian and consistent problem for public discourse on issues of race. His assertion that slavery was a choice and his support for the White Lives Matter movement, are just a few examples of his problematic conduct.

It would be an absurd disservice to pretend that Kanye’s views, tendencies, or other examples of weak analysis in public life are representative of black people, both in the United States and globally. And while I can’t presume to speak for black people or their sense of their own existence as a community, it would be equally as inappropriate to remain silent when there are those who will likely use the guise of fighting anti-semitism as a pretext to engage in anti-black prejudice. Kanye’s words are his own.

Equally important is the denunciation of antisemitism that has gripped not only this nation but the world over. At a time when anti-semitic attacks are on the rise and when more people in American political life are engaging in open anti-semitism, it is incredibly important that anti-semitism is denounced wherever it is present. America is not immune those this age-old prejudice, not even in the face Nazism.

In 1939, thousand of Americans gathered to support the Nazi party and attack Jewish people in what can only be described as the rally from hell.

Kanye’s conduct and the historical themes behind it should not be used as a pretext to attack any one community. Instead, it should serve as a reminder that everyone has a responsibility to keep an eye out for prejudiced ideas so that they don’t contribute to their spread and the abuse of authority that inevitably comes with it.

Far from being an endorsement of indicting any community, Kanye’s comments can serve as an opportunity to acknowledge the danger that is antisemitism so that we may all grow beyond even the most subtle examples of this noxious ideology.

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