Not shame on Kanye, I say shame on Us
Ye (formally known as Kanye West) has been all over the news of late for his repeated antisemitic comments. On several recent podcasts he used language so toxic that the backlash has extended to far outside our own extensive Jewish community. Companies such as Adidas, The Gap, CAA and more have publicly cut all ties with him. Non-Jews, his ex-wife Armenian-American Kim Kardashian, Reese Witherspoon, Jaime Lee Curtis and others too many to list here, have all taken to social media to denounce him. The alphabet of Jewish organizations have been tripping all over themselves to denounce Ye’s comments to the point I started asking myself do we really need to know what the Jewish Daughters of the American Revolution feel about this?
I don’t care what Ye said.
His choice of words was boorish, not rational and certainly not befitting such a bright and articulate man. It is clear that he is struggling with mental health issues. US Congress members yield real power in our democracy and we have several current ones that have made similar or worse statements and actively work to weaken Israel, a far greater threat than anything Ye has said.
Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences and Ye has been held accountable by the free market for his comments. It is interesting that while Adidas did cancel their contract and collaboration with Ye they also have ignored another business partner influencer Gigi Hadid whose antisemitic comments are legendary and even was filmed calling for Israel’s destruction. What does that tell you?
Ye is harmless. Please don’t tell me “It started like this with Hitler.” Growing up in Appalachia I learned there is a vast difference between ignorance and hate. A Nazi isn’t behind every ignorant antisemitic comment and when we overreact, we immunize everyone around us to when there is an actual threat. Yes, we need to keep our eyes open. We also need to know when and where the real threats are.
Ye has no history of violence towards Jews nor any history of calling for Israel’s destruction. Ye isn’t on the roster of artists and entertainers that have put their names on petitions to boycott Israel. I am strong enough in my Jewish identity to see his comments for what they were: the rantings of a man who is struggling with mental health issues. I’m not a mental health professional but I did watch his interview with David Letterman where they both discusses his ongoing mental health challenges. Examine closely what Ye said and the context they were spoken. I think any reasonable person would agree that his comments were not rational. Ye’s ranting reminds me of the guy standing outside every supermarket muttering to himself about the latest conspiracy. The guy might be annoying but you don’t have him arrested, you give him a sandwich.
The latest Pew Research study tells us that 42% of African-Americans are in some form antisemitic, more than twice the percentage for “White” Americans. Intersectionality and Woke, the current rage of the Left, say they are the voice of the oppressed yet Jews are considered “White” and part of the ruling power class since we are “White presenting.” How soon we forget that in 1930s Germany the percentage of Jews in Germany that were “Aryan presenting”, blonde hair and blue eyes, was higher than German Christians. We have more pressing issues than to worry about the irrational rantings of a rapper turned fashion mogul.
The question begs to be asked if Ye’s politics were on the progressive Left would there have been the same firestorm that we have witnessed against him? Ye had a famous bromance with the former Republican President Trump and has been outspoken in his disdain for the Black Lives Matter Movement. Ye went as far to wear a “White Lives Matter” shirt at an event this past year and doubled down with irrational statements about the George Floyd case putting him in the crosshairs of the media and the social justice warriors.
The Jewish people have real threats in our world today. Antisemitism hasn’t risen in the last few years but it has become more brazen, more open and we have with the internet instant news on our hand access to each and every antisemitic incident, small or large, that is reported. Next time you have an opportunity ask “Alexa” if Jewish lives matter.
When it comes to Ye’s comments the bandwidth we all spent this subject could and should have been used to address much more important questions. Questions like why are Jewish college student so ill prepared, so uneducated in their own Jewish identity that they can’t defend themselves on campuses across the country today?
Kanye didn’t go “Def Con 3” on us but we did on him. Torah teaches us to have compassion for the sick. Has anyone in our community shown Ye compassion? Torah teaches us that one has to be cognizant of a mitzvah (commandment) to be held accountable for it. Mental illness can clearly be a barrier for a person to understand what they are doing is not ok.
Thankfully nobody offered to take Ye to the local Holocaust Museum which seems to be the standard punishment when public personalities say stupid things about Jews. I never saw the point of taking an uneducated antisemite to a place that documents the step-by-step process of how to exterminate millions of Jews. Are we educating the knucklehead not to hate us or how to be a better antisemite?
I did not hear one voice of reason throughout this whole affair putting into context his words and the potential for any real threat to the Jewish community. If any good came out of this it is for the first time in memory the collective rose up against antisemitic speech as it has for anti-black, anti LGBTQ and other anti-minority hate speech. We might want to remember this well, the reality is I don’t expect to see this level of support very often. Over the last thirteen years we have seen only silence from the collective when it has come to antisemitic speech and actions.
Until we can truly address the real needs in our community shame on us for focusing our time, effort and energies on the rantings of Ye (Kanye West). While he is a public figure, he is also private citizen that is struggling with his mental health. The incessant public shaming has shone an unflattering light on us not him.
I reached out and invited Ye to join me on a podcast. I want to talk to this man, I want to understand what the hell he was thinking. Not an ambush and I am certainly not going to excuse any of what he said. If he accepts maybe he apologizes, maybe he won’t, that’s on him not me. Maybe he doubles down and maybe he avoids talking about what happened all together. Regardless of what he does moving forward I think it time for all of us to let this go.
Zaq Harrison, Founder