Kanye’s tweet demonstrates a pattern of behavior that has real-world consequences

On October 25th, German fashion brand Adidas announced it was cutting ties with Kanye West, otherwise known by the moniker “Ye,” following the American musician’s commitment to hatred of Jewish people. Beginning on October 7th, Ye plunged into a dizzying spree of social media posts which resulted in his name spiraling through the news. He was first banned from Instagram for promoting antisemetic conspiracy theories, then from Twitter the following day for threatening to go “death con 3” on Jewish people. After being reinstated on Instagram he was immediately banned again for another antisemetic post. He then proceeded to buy Parler, a platform known for fostering far-right belief systems, and was reinstated on Twitter by its new owner, Elon Musk. In the midst of all of this, several sources told CNN of a number of other incidents in which Ye had less publicly expressed pro-Nazi rhetoric, including praising Adolf Hitler and Nazis in general, eagerly reading Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf, and wanting to name his 2018 album after the genocidal dictator. When the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust invited Ye to take a private tour in hopes of helping him to understand how sheerly evil the ideas he is promoting are, Ye’s response was to dismissively compare those who executed the Holocaust to reproductive rights organization Planned Parenthood.
What is most surprising about this most recent turn of events is not Ye’s behavior, but the fact that he is finally facing consequences for it. Though more aggressive than his usual controversies, Ye’s antisemitism fits neatly with who he has been telling us he is for years. Ye has promoted white supremacy in a number of other ways, including stating that slavery was a choice on behalf of the victims, showing political support for ardent white supremacist Donald Trump, and most recently displaying the slogan, “White lives matter,” which has been used by racists to discredit the Black lives matter movement. Additionally, Ye has publicly harassed a number of famous women, most notably Taylor Swift and ex-wife Kim Kardashian.
In the past when Ye has displayed disregard for other human beings, two primary types of responses have come from the general public. Fans and onlookers will often blame Ye’s mental illness for his words and actions, or otherwise make memes of his behavior. It’s true that Ye has dealt with severe mental illness throughout his life, including a diagnosis of bipolar disorder which he has sometimes accepted and sometimes not accepted. It’s also true that no mental illness is an excuse to be repeatedly racist, sexist, or otherwise abusive to other people. Mentally ill people are not inherently any of these things, yet they already face severe stigma even before all of the public remarks about Ye. Additionally, Ye is an extremely wealthy and powerful man. He has access to mental health treatment that most people with bipolar disorder don’t. Using his mental illness to attempt to defend his mistreatment of other people is unjustifiable. Making memes of his behavior is even more egregious as it encourages his conduct and sends him the message that the public thinks of his illness and his maltreatment of others as a joke.
Ye’s spreading of hatred and the potential consequences of his words are no joke, however. Since his initial antisemetic remarks, Ye has been embraced and uplifted by neo-Nazi hate groups. One group infamously hung a banner that read “Kanye is right about Jews” above the busy Interstate 405 highway in Los Angeles. This display was not the only chilling act that could potentially be inspired by Ye. Since 2020, politicians in both the United Kingdom and the United States have repeatedly cited the transphobic rhetoric of author JK Rowling, another influential bigot, when arguing to pass legislation that has hurt transgender people, demonstrating that the hateful words of celebrities can have a real impact on human rights.
Most people would say they want to live in a world that loves Jewish people, that loves people of color, and that loves mentally ill people, and that loves women, and that loves trans people. One of the things that needs to happen in order for that world to exist is that the public needs to hold hateful influencers and celebrities accountable.