Kanye West, seen in 2019, has lost business deals in light of his recent antisemitic remarks. (Michael Wyke / Associated Press)

Opinion

Opinion: Why Kanye West’s antisemitic rhetoric can’t be excused

Kanye West, an influential pop culture figure, made harmful, antisemitic statements on mainstream media that must be taken seriously and addressed.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/faithspalding/" target="_self">Faith Spalding</a>

Faith Spalding

October 28, 2022
Kanye West. Just his name draws intense admiration, and for some, intense anger. The infamous rapper’s recent headlines have been characterized by divorce woes and breaks with mental health, but recently the star has taken an entirely new angle.

Once again embroiled in controversy, in now-deleted tweets and Instagram posts, the star said he would go “Defcon 3 on Jewish People.” This comes only days after he appeared in a “White Lives Matter” shirt at his fashion show. Now locked out of his Instagram and Twitter accounts, West continued his antisemitic attack, appearing in an exclusive interview with Tucker Carlson, in which leaked clips reveal very disturbing rhetoric.

West started his weekend tirade by posting screenshots of text conversations he had with Sean “Diddy” Combs, in which he accused Combs of being controlled by Jewish people, which he then followed up with his now-deleted tweet. Several days later, West appeared in an interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson. Motherboard leaked unaired footage from the interview, characterized by West’s bizarre comments and claims, especially about Jewish people. West also complained that his children attend a school where Kwanzaa is taught, saying he would rather have his children learn about the Jewish holiday Hanukkah because “at least it will come with some financial engineering.” This is a blatant reference to the incredibly harmful trope that promotes the idea that Jewish people are greedy, money hungry and controlling.

This stereotype is incredibly overrated, dating back all the way to the Middle Ages when economic and living restrictions made the only livable career high-interest crediting, which Christian rulers recruited Jewish people to do. This made it incredibly easy for leaders to position Jews as a scapegoat, and the cause of people’s financial problems; this further allowed people to perceive Jewish people as immoral.

None of this makes sense, nor is it right or accurate. Kanye West has a history of making inflammatory comments and has a history of mental illness, but we can’t simply brush this under the rug. To go on major social media platforms ordering for Defcon 3 on “all Jews” is simply unacceptable.

Antisemitism has long been the “forgiven” evil. Antisemitic tropes have been forever perpetuated by multimedia, many of which date back to the Middle Ages, or even propaganda circulated in Russia during the pogroms and even in Nazi-era Germany. When blatant antisemitism is perpetuated by one of the biggest pop-culture figures of the twenty-first century, it becomes easier and easier for society to excuse.

On October 19, West appeared on British tabloid reporter Piers Morgan’s show to “apologize” for his comments, reportedly saying that he’s, “sorry for the people I [he] hurt,” and that his comments came from “trauma,” he has been through. At best, his comments are disingenuous, and at worst, an obvious attempt to manipulate his audience after the fallout of his comments were “unexpected.” However, in one of the first released clips from the interview, West is asked if he regretted saying he’d go “Defcon 3 on Jewish people,” or if he was at least sorry. To that, he responded, “No! Absolutely not. Absolutely not. Absolutely not,” while he smiled.

Kanye West has barely taken accountability for his actions, and he’s not sorry. He’s appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show, and even on Chris Cuomo’s, he insisted that “the Jewish mafia media” is after him, and that antisemitism wasn’t real. At the end of the day, a person cannot justify the racism that they have endured with another form of racism and not expect a large amount of backlash. West’s mental health issues are serious, but they are not an excuse for this harmful rhetoric, especially when any acknowledgment or apology was immediately backpedaled. Society cannot continue to excuse West’s actions and brush antisemitism under the rug.