The threat of violence toward our people is real, targeted, and purposeful, as we were once again reminded this past week. Kanye West first sported a “White Lives Matter” t-shirt at a Paris fashion show, then proceeded to spew white supremacy and vicious antisemitism with Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who has long promoted antisemitic ideology and is a proud proponent of the “Great Replacement Theory.”
After being banned from Instagram for using antisemitic slurs, Kanye turned to his Twitter platform with more than 31 million followers, announcing he intended to “[go] death con 3 on Jewish people.” He said Jews “have toyed with [him] and tried to black ball anyone whoever opposes [the Jewish] agenda.” He invoked multiple anti-Jewish tropes that have sparked humanity’s worst impulses and led to some of history’s greatest catastrophes.
For obvious reasons, it is confusing for many to see a Black man perpetuating explicit white supremacy, declaring that “black people are actually Jew also,” and making outright death threats against Jewish people. Kanye and his family have been open about his serious mental health struggles. But whether or not these rants are part of a psychotic episode, words have objective meaning and, in this case, serious consequences. In the end, for the Jewish community, the impact, danger, and threat is the same.
“White Lives Matter” is a slogan that supports the “Great Replacement Theory”––the notion that communities of color aim to advance a “white genocide” in America. But given that white supremacists believe communities of color––and in particular, Black people––inferior, therefore unable to execute such a plan alone, their conspiracy theory requires a Jewish “invisible hand.”
“White Lives Matter” = Great Replacement Theory = Anti-Blackness and Antisemitism of the Nazi variety. Kanye’s comments are part of this deadly chain––and we know where they lead.
The centuries-old myths Kanye is propagating about the Jewish people are extraordinarily dangerous and have, throughout history, led directly to physical violence against Jewish and other marginalized communities. The Great Replacement Theory inspired shooting attacks at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, where 11 Jews were murdered, and at the Buffalo grocery store, where 10 Black Americans were murdered.
The fight against antisemitism must be recognized as a shared fight for us all: When these tropes are absorbed by a society and internalized by its members, it is not just the Jews who suffer––it is the society itself.
Jewish generational trauma is triggered not only by the content of a tweet like Kanye’s, but also by the 41,000 people who deliberately pressed ‘like’ within only one hour, and the millions more who viewed and/or heard about it, but did not condemn or attempted to defend outright anti-Jew hatred. Despite the desire by some to write off these comments as “crazy” or “unhinged,” allies need to understand that the threats to our communities are very real and very serious: Jews remain the number one target of religiously motivated hate crimes in America––60% of these attacks target our community, despite the fact that we comprise less than 2% of the population. Minimizing the threats is gaslighting and harmful.
To those who have used their platforms, made statements, and shown allyship: we profoundly thank you. Your voices are heard, needed and deeply appreciated. For the Jews and allies alike who have not yet spoken: we recognize that antisemitism can be hard to identify and understand.
That’s why resources are so important. To better understand the dangers of Kanye’s comments and their long history in the narrative of antisemitism, we recommend reading and sharing our “How to be an Anti-Antisemite” and “Explaining Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam” guides, as well as attending a training and getting involved in Zioness. All guides can be found on our website, under resources. These help us to recognize dangerous tropes and stereotypes immediately––whether coded or explicit––so we can confront and dismantle antisemitism wherever and whenever we see it.