For the last two weeks, the world has watched Kanye West pioneer his own downfall. His “White Lives Matter” t-shirt stunt on October 3rd during Paris Fashion Week—alongside right-wing talking head Candice Owens—marked a new wave of hateful sentiments from the Chicago native. However, West’s discriminatory comments are hardly anything new.
The fact that he is lauded as a “genius” in the music industry continues to somehow be his saving grace. Quite frankly, we need to stop using this an excuse to nullify bad behavior. Following numerous anti-semitic tweets and statements, the emcee is finally on the receiving end of actual consequences (something that his previous anti-Black remarks couldn’t accomplish).
West has been temporarily restricted from social media platforms Twitter and Instagram. He is in jeopardy of losing partnerships with big brands like Adidas. Celebrities—including his former friend John Legend—have alluded to the despicable nature of Ye’s declarations. Even his own bank wants nothing to do with him.
Ultimately, West’s creative contributions shouldn’t be the reason he isn’t held accountable for his bigotry. Despite having an album like Yeezus, which was released in 2013 and served as his most unapologetic in discussing the complexities of Blackness, he publicly aligned with former President Donald Trump in typical Ye fashion back in 2016.
Less than 14 days after the election in which Trump was declared victorious, West announced during one of his concerts in San Jose, California: “If I would’ve voted, I’d have voted for Trump.” This was followed by a photo of him hugging Trump in the White House, comments like slavery was a choice and an extremely painful presidential run.
Still, his musical talent was elevated above his dangerously misinformed rhetoric. The star became the human embodiment of teflon in rap—it’s as if nothing could stick to him. Ye continued to release projects, in both the music and fashion worlds, that were successful enough to make him a billionaire.
In 2021, his Donda listening parties—which were held in Atlanta and Chicago—were not just events showcasing new music but decadent spectacles that dominated the news cycle. Even though he brought out polarizing figures like DaBaby and Marilyn Manson—who had previously been accused of rape—it didn’t stop the immense mainstream coverage that followed.
West is gifted, many claim, and his brand of controversy—despite who it may damage—just serves as fuel for his art. But how many more “White Lives Matter” accessories or appearances on Tucker Carlson do we need to finally undo Ye’s influence and power? His current unraveling has taken years to execute, but will it actually be permanent?
We cannot afford to uplift and support anyone who is doing the work of white supremacy in a racist society—especially when it is other Black people. Their level of creative prowess, regardless of how impressive it may be, shouldn’t be an excuse to justify words and actions that harm us.
West is most likely under the impression that he can continue to drop projects and repent for what he’s done and will continue to do (during the Carlson interview, he teased at running for president in 2024).
Instead of labeling Ye as a “genius”—and using it as a blanket term to cover up his conservative fanaticism—why don’t we celebrate the brilliant Black folks who actually deserve the recognition?