By Ariana Ceballos
Following his previous controversial antics of the year, Kanye West caused another storm in Paris Fashion Week by revealing a shirt with the racist slogan “White Lives Matter,” at his fashion show for his YZY Season 9 collection. The shirt was then posted online by right political commentator Candance Owens in which she and West donned the shirts. The slogan has been used by White Supremists to undermine the Black communities’ struggles.
Mitchell S. Jackson from Esquire best summarizes the negativity of promoting the slogan, saying: “white lives matter like Blue Lives Matter, is a motto meant to negate the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement, to imperil the humanity of Black people writ large.” He also notes that “the phrase is damn incendiary that the Anti-Defamation League deemed it hate speech.” West’s latest scandal is one that appeals to an audience that has caused harm to the Black community and promotes the ongoing hatred.
West who changed his name to Ye, posted a response to his Instagram story (that can no longer be seen) reading: “Everyone knows that Black Lives Matter Matter was a scam now its over you’re welcome.”
This response could be alluding to the recent allegation that a Black Lives Matter executive has been sent to court for “syphoning 10 million dollars from BLM donors” according to an article on CNN. Along with others mentioned in the suit is executive Shalomyah Bowers, who was hired by the BLM organization co-founder Patrisse Cullors to run Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation (GNF), an extension of the BLM organization.
Despite these allegations, outside the organizational and corporate level, the slogan “Black Lives Matter” has a powerful meaning and movement behind it. As Trace William Cowen notes in coverage for Ye’s show for Complex, the “movement and the intention behind the BLM phrase stand on their own apart from groups and organizations carrying the name, a fact repeatedly noted among coverage of recent allegations centered on the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation.”
This scandal regarding the organization should not take away any meaning from Black Lives Matter. The lives of black people are still in danger, and they still face discrimination and hate. This incident shows how even an allegation like this can be used to shine a negative light on, not simply the slogan, but the people in its focus. It’s sad to see this slogan being weaponized against the people it was made to protect, and how easy it is for many to denounce the movement and turn away from those that need a platform to voice their struggles.
The family of Ahmaud Arbery, victim to a fatal racially motivated attack, responded against Ye’s use of the racist slogan and diminishing Black Lives Matter as a scam after the rapper offered support to the family. Wanda Cooper-Jones, mother of Arbery, released a statement to Rolling Stone through her attorney Lee Merritt, saying: “As a result of his display ‘White Lives Matter’ started trending in the U.S., which would direct support and legitimize extremist behavior, [much] like the behavior that took the life of her son.” The statement goes on: “This mockery of the Black Lives Matter movement and his now denunciation of the movement as some sort of hoax flies directly in the face [of what he’s said,]…It’s confusing for her, it’s confusing for the families to receive his support privately, but publicly to set us all back.”
This confusion stems from the fact that West’s team announced they had donated 2 million dollars to the families of George Floyd, Arbery, and Breonna Taylor victims of racially motivated attacks. So if Ye is willing to support victims of extreme racism acts, he should publicly show his support by not promoting dangerous racist rhetoric.
Mitchell S. Jackson’s thoughts shine a light on the impact Ye’s actions have on Black people “…proclaiming Ye a proxy racist ain’t about his ability to oppress white folks. It’s about him serving as a willful tool of white people’s oppression of us…doing it again and again with knowing and intent.”
It is important to point out and address this type of dangerous thinking, which distracts us from the idea of empathizing with the struggles of others even if we are not placed in the same disadvantaged position. Ye is someone that continuously gets attention for his controversial antics. This latest action gives a platform to a group of people that is willing to hurt others, and diminish the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement in which people’s voices and stories are heard.