Award-winning, student-run, weekly campus newspaper of the University of Illinois, Springfield

The Observer

Award-winning, student-run, weekly campus newspaper of the University of Illinois, Springfield

The Observer

Award-winning, student-run, weekly campus newspaper of the University of Illinois, Springfield

The Observer


Kanye West is Getting Worse: Blatant Antisemitism on Display

Photo Credit: David Shankbone, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

It all started early this month with a post on Instagram by Kanye West, showing him accusing a fellow rapper of being controlled by Jewish people. The post created a firestorm that resulted in Kanye, who now goes by the name “Ye,” being locked out of his Instagram account. But it only got worse from there. In a disparaging and shocking post on Twitter, the rapper wrote that he would go “…death con three on Jewish People.” From there, Kanye’s conduct and fortunes have only gotten worse.

When dealing with something as sensitive as antisemitism, it is critical to be aware of the racist element of the ideas being observed and equally important not to contribute to other forms of prejudice when attempting to fight the one in front of you. Previously, I have written about the dangers of antisemitism in and of itself, but I have also written about Kanye’s conduct about it. In both cases, I have maintained the unflinching position that antisemitism, of any kind, is an atrocious abuse to the public and Jewish Americans in particular. Equally important is to acknowledge that the ideas promoted by the rapper are not to be used as a pretext to maintain anti-Black rhetoric and prejudice. The Black community is not responsible for Kanye’s conduct. Kanye and the community of fringe grifters that promote him are.

To understand that fringe, it is critical to understand the historical nature of both Kanye’s relationship with antisemitic ideas and the origins of those ideas themselves. This line of thinking, though nowhere near as explicit, is not new when it comes to Kanye’s conduct. In a 2013 interview, the rapper commented on what limited then-President Obama’s ability to get his agenda passed, saying, “People want to say Obama can’t make these moves or he’s not executing. That’s because he ain’t got those connections … Black people don’t have the same level of connections as Jewish people. Black people don’t have the same connections as oil people.”

It should go without saying that those comments are incredibly antisemitic, though perhaps not as bad as saying he would go “death con 3” on Jewish people. Nonetheless, they demonstrate an element of Kanye’s thinking and the influence of the age-old conspiracy against Jewish people that they are inherently wealthier through their influence.

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This theme ignores quite readily that it is the product of eras of antisemitic propaganda, some of which directly influenced the Nazi Party and Adolf Hitler. In particular, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a prejudiced book and canard, claimed that Jewish people had established a cabal to control the governments of the Earth through various methods, with finance being one of those mechanisms. Henry Ford believed heavily in the book and promoted its mass publication to the point that the Third Reich would eventually give Ford a medal for his work. Omni Publishing, one of the major publishers responsible for the book, also published another prejudiced screed, The Truth About the Slump (1931), by A.N. Field. In it, Field asserted, “The Money Power that rules the world today is centered in the hands of individuals of a particular race and creed.” And that the creation of the Federal Reserve was the moment that “the United States was enslaved under this German-Jew engine of control.”

These ideas are not merely offensive – though that should be reason enough to condemn them. They are dangerous. Ideas of Jewish control of society and media almost always lead to calls for action against the supposed ruling class. The only possible outcome of such ideas is violence. Already, we are seeing this spread around the nation with a rise in antisemitic hate crimes tearing at the fabric of public life and the safety of Jewish Americans who only want to live in peace. Kanye’s words contribute to that.

Not long after his statements, the Goyim Defense League, a neo-Nazi organization, protested with a sign that read, “Kanye is right about the Jews,” and gave Nazi salutes. This connection to Nazi rhetoric is not a mere outlier with Kanye. A recent exclusive by CNN notes that Kanye allegedly has a history of fascination and praise for the leader of the Third Reich, with one of his former colleagues alleging, “He would praise Hitler by saying how incredible it was that he was able to accumulate so much power and would talk about all the great things he and the Nazi Party achieved for the German people….”

Former TMZ employee and colleague to Kanye, Van Lathan Jr, further backed up this report. In a recent episode of the Higher Learning podcast, Lathan Jr. noted that Kanye had previously made comments about Hitler that were overtly sympathetic.

Examining this rhetoric from the framework of historical prejudice and the influence of Nazi ideology in America is useful, but it is insufficient to examine Kanye’s prejudice. Indeed, his ideas of antisemitism go deeper than merely representing the horrors of the Third Reich and its disgusting ideology.

In his original tweet, the rapper argued that he could not be considered antisemitic because “Black people are actually Jew..” This idea comes directly from the Black Israelism movement, more commonly known as the Black Hebrew Israelite movement. This movement, started in 1896 by a preacher in Oklahoma, asserts that African Americans are the true descendants of Israel. The claim itself is largely ahistorical and ignores the dignity of Jewish people, including Black Jewish people. Kanye’s acceptance of this idea was fully displayed in his unedited interview with Tucker Carlson, which Vice News republished. Kanye said, “When I say Jew, I mean the 12 lost tribes of Judah, the blood of Christ, who the people known as the race Black really are.” He also reiterated the moneyed interest, an interest that does not exist for Jewish people.

It could just as easily be said that these ideas go deeper than just the Black Israelism that Kanye displays, and that is true, but more than just the ideas, Kanye is promoted and maintained by individuals in his circle who want to keep him going or give him a larger platform. Candace Owens, a controversial figure in and of herself, has gone out of her way to defend Kanye and has previously promoted his talking points about the Black community. She argued that it was not antisemitic to go “death con 3 on Jews” and that his comments were not because he hated Jewish people but because the media labeled him antisemitic. Mind you, Owens has over a million subscribers on YouTube, an enviable platform to have on your side. Combine Owen’s connection to the Daily Wire and its willingness to promote her arguments, and it should be no surprise that major voices protect this prejudice.

If there is anything that can be gained by examining Kanye’s outburst, it is the understanding that prejudice can’t be ignored, and those who support it do so because they are either regurgitating old propaganda from previous eras or they are actively willing to support someone they think is popular and could be useful to them. Such things must not go unopposed. If there is ever to be a day when antisemitism dies, it will have to start with breaking down the institutions and ideas that allow these prejudiced individuals to keep up their movement of hatred.

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