I said I wouldn’t write about Kanye West again, but I was wrong. I reacted in the 90 minutes after he sent “White Lives Matter” T-shirts down the runway because I thought that was the low point, the grossest interpretation of hate speech, rock bottom for the rapper-slash-designer. I was wrong, of course. It was merely the before.
The reappropriated-neo-Nazi-slogan tees were before he doubled down to add that “everyone knows that Black Lives Matter was a scam.” Before Puff Daddy condemned the shirts. Before the Gigi Hadid and the Hailey Bieber and the Gabriella of it all. I filed before Zuckerberg stepped in. Before the Instagram banishment saw Ye tweeting again after two years. Before Kanye said that he was taking a nap before “going death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE.”
I filed before the Tucker Carlson two-parter interview. Before the fat-shaming. Before the body negativity. Before he called Lizzo “clinically unhealthy.” Before the anti-Blackness and antisemitism and anti-abortion and some utter guff about Planned Parenthood, suggesting it was founded to control the Black population by killing infants in the womb.
I wrote about Kanye before Balenciaga took a hard out. Before Adidas severed ties with the rapper, Yeezy sneakers ceased production, and Kanye lost his billionaire status. Before Gap bounced and the documentary was scrapped and Madame Tussauds yanked Ye’s waxwork.
So here we are. Not the before; the after.
I want to say that hate speech doesn’t always give license to hate acts. That Kanye chats shit—don’t get me wrong, it’s the worst shit imaginable, but he chats it—and we all know it’s appalling. Nobody nods. But there’s a bunch of guys waving “Kanye Is Right” banners over the freeway. Obviously, Kanye has a huge platform, but I thought we were all pinch of salting his outbursts. It’s terrifying to know there’s a saltless faction out there.
Or perhaps we already knew? Antisemitism isn’t exactly brand new, is it? It’s just never been so widely platformed by the world’s gobbiest rapper. And there’s no excuse. None. Mental unwellness doesn’t make you an antisemite. Kanye is playing some sort of marginalized-group roulette, attacking whomever he sees fit. I think it’s telling how few white men he’s come for.
I keep trying to tell myself that Kanye isn’t dense with loathing, saturated with intolerance. Arguably his conservative, pro-Trump rhetoric could be seen as a performance, a way of enticing and manipulating power in order to change it? Playing them at their own game? Even the MAGA hat he wore could be seen as a sort of found-art moment? Am I reaching, your honor?
Realistically, this isn’t the end for Ye. Adidas was right to bin him off, but someone else will broker a new deal when this has all died down. And it dying down is what most of us want. At some point in the future, today will be the before. Before the amends, before the apologies, before the healing. Hopefully I can write about that.