I don’t know any of Kanye’s music, I don’t follow him on social media, I am not encouraged to buy the brands he endorses. I still haven’t forgiven him for stealing the spotlight in 2009 from Taylor Swift when he jumped onto the stage at the MTV Awards as she was about to accept the coveted “Best Video by a Female Artist” and told her, “I’mma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time! One of the best videos of all time!” That incident has not had closure.
After seeing the videos of Kanye’s anti-Semitic verbal assault and reading his words, it has been astonishing to see the many celebrities (Jewish & non) who have chastised him and unfriended him from their circle of noteriety. The estimate is that Kanye has lost $800 million dollars (to date) from the multiple endorsements that no longer want him associated with their brands.
Result for Kanye: tidalwave of criticism; isolation; loss of income.
Result for us: growing solidarity in support of the Jewish people along with respect and tolerance for the Other.
So did we win? And if so, why does it feel shallow and empty and not satisfying? Are we congratulating ourselves by believing that loss of celebrity and income equates to solving the age-old disease of anti-semitism?
Has the loss of celebrity and income only solidified Kanye’s beliefs (& similar beliefs of others) that Jews really do control money, Hollywood, the media and on and on and on? Kanye has 28 million followers on social media. It doesn’t seem that he has lost any of these millions during this past week.
I doubt that those supporters of Kanye who unfurled anti-semitic banners over a Los Angeles freeway, now have had a change of heart and soon will be unfurling Israeli flags and wearing Jewish stars.
I’m not expecting Kanye to appear on various talk shows and explain how wrong he was and that now some of his best friends are Jewish.
We didn’t win and he didn’t lose. Anti-semitism has not disappeared and Kanye will find a way to recoup his losses.
So do we just move on from this until the next incident?
Or is there a next step that we all collectively take to help Kanye see that his words have repercussions because of the tragic periods in Jewish history?
In addition, this incident is another wake-up call that mental illness, in various forms, affect even the highest levels of the rich and famous. But mental illness does not give them a pass for preaching hatred.
Kanye needs to become healthy in mind, body and belief system. The Jewish tradition has always prioitized health, whether it is mental or physical health. Yet mental illness does not get a pass to preach hatred.
Winning for us and winning for Kanye can be similar. Words matter. Actions matter. Standing up for tolerance, honesty, respect and acceptance are needed on all sides. His global punishment does not end this story. Here’s a chance to postively influence at least 28 million individuals who follow his lead. We are not done.
As we learn from Ethis of the Fathers (Pirkay Avot 2:16) from 2,000 years ago:
“It is not up to you to finish the task, but you are not free to avoid it.”