Ye’s antisemitism is inexcusable

Ye’s antisemitic remarks are only the most recent in a string of behaviors that should have rung alarm bells


Courtesy of CNN

Demonstrators in Los Angeles perform the Nazi salute and note that “Kanye was right about the Jews.”

Natasha Heisenberg, Staff Columnist

On Oct. 22, a group of white supremacists gathered on a bridge above a crowded Los Angeles freeway. As they threw up Nazi salutes, a banner hung down, displayed over cars as they drove along. “Kanye is right about the Jews,” it read. 

The hateful demonstration came following a series of antisemitic statements issued by Ye, formerly known as Kanye West. One of the most inflammatory was a tweet stating “Go death [sic] con 3 on all Jewish people” which caused Twitter to suspend Ye’s account. 

 The backlash was immediate. Days after, Ye’s Instagram account was restricted and Adidas announced that it had ended its partnership with him. Dozens of celebrities spoke out against antisemitism and Ye’s behavior, and many politicians also commented on the incident and the prevalence of antisemitism in modern society. However, activists were not the only ones provoked by Ye’s behavior.

Across the country, antisemitic and white supremacist groups were emboldened by Ye’s statements. The increased incidence of antisemitic speech reflected the expansive nature of Ye’s platform and highlighted the dangers of popularizing individuals that spew hateful rhetoric without restraint. 

While this was Ye’s first time publicly voicing his antisemitic sentiments, it is not the first time that he has attracted controversy for his words or actions. In 2016, Ye endorsed then-presidential candidate Donald Trump for office, later visiting him in the Oval Office. In recent months, he has also spoken out against the Black Lives Matter movement, even producing shirts with the slogan “White Lives Matter.” 

Although Ye’s comments likely exist as an attempt to remain relevant, they are not without consequences. Even after being criticized for his antisemitic comments, Ye still has a staggering 18.4 million followers on Instagram. Other prominent figures have been prompted by his actions, as well. Kyrie Irving, a basketball player for the Brooklyn Nets, posted antisemitic content on his Twitter account in the days after Ye’s statements. Irving, who was forced to apologize, is just one example of how rapidly hate can spread throughout communities, infecting the most vulnerable and marginalized groups. 

Another facet of the conversation surrounding Ye’s actions is his long-term struggle with mental illness. Because Ye is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, his fans have attributed his erratic behavior to his mental health problems. However, a problem arises when mental illness is used to excuse bigotry, hate and actions that condone violence. 

There are approximately 7 million adults in the United States who have been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, equivalent to 2.8% of the population, according to a 2020 study by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). As the study notes, though, this number does not account for those who have not sought help and therefore remain undiagnosed. 

These millions of individuals face the same hardships as Ye does in regards to their mental well-being. However, unlike Ye, these people have not taken to social media and abused their platform to promote violence towards a minority community that has faced adversity throughout history.

Equating mental illness with antisemitism, racism and other forms of hate speech is a dangerous comparison to draw, and one that dismisses the harm of Ye’s actions. At the heart of his being, Ye has demonstrated time and time again that he lacks empathy, compassion and common sense. Unfortunately, this incident is only the most recent in a long string of actions that should have rung louder alarm bells surrounding his judgment and character. 

For now, resources must be devoted to combatting antisemitism on all scales, from community-based to national efforts. Going forward as a society, however, it is vital to identify sources of hate and not allow them to gain such a wide and influential platform. Ye acted as a spark in the growing fire of hate directed at the Jewish community, and it is the job of each and every American to snuff out the flames before they have a chance to reach those jeopardized by them.