Kanye “Ye” West has been spewing white nationalist talking points for a decade. His current anti-Semitic road show was preceded by years of evident anti-Blackness, from hawking Confederate flag merch in 2013, to declaring that Black enslavement was “a choice” in 2018, to appearing repeatedly at the White House during the Trump years, to attempting, in 2021, to coerce Black election workers in Georgia to falsely confess throwing the vote to Biden. Unsurprisingly, wariness of Ye among Black folks has been steadily growing for years, particularly among disappointed former fans. In 2018, the writer Channing Hargrove wrote a satirical obituary for West; Black Twitter declared him stuck in Get Out’s “sunken place”; and journalist and filmmaker dream hampton indicted him for pushing “the same old white supremacy.” Comedian Zachary Fox had the prescience to warn that we should all disembark from “the Kanye train before it inevitably reaches the ‘Hitler was a good guy’ stop.” In October 2022, an Economist/YouGov poll found that a greater share of Black Americans (40 percent) viewed the rapper very negatively than either Hispanic Americans (32 percent) or white Americans (33 percent).
Meanwhile, that same anti-Black racism has ingratiated Ye with the right wing. After his shenanigans at Paris Fashion Week, where he showed up in a “White Lives Matter” T-shirt, the House GOP tweeted its now-notorious vision of leadership: “Kanye. Elon. Trump.” Soon after, GOP Representative Paul Gosar urged his Twitter followers to “Pray for Kanye West. They will throw everything they have at him simply for speaking the truth.” Ye, who is quasi-stumping to be the 2024 Republican presidential nominee, kicked off his anti-Jewish media tour two days later by promising to go “death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE.” Not only did the Gosar and House Republican tweets remain up for nearly two more months, but Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita accused the media of attacking Ye for “his independent thinking, & for having opposing thoughts from the norm of Hollywood.” (He would sorta walk the statement back after criticism.)
These folks are fans of neither hip-hop nor Black folks, but they love having a Black celebrity carry their racist water. If anti-Semitism comes with the deal, even better. In other words, Ye is delivering their message without any messy disclaimers.
Ye has spent the time since then putting out anti-Jewish conspiracy theories, professing his love for Hitler and the Nazis, and dining with well-known anti-Semites, including Nick Fuentes and Donald Trump, whose own anti-Semitic footprint is sizable and who has repeatedly castigated American Jews—who are collectively second only to African Americans in voting against him—as “disloyal.”
Most Republicans have said nothing about Trump’s dinner with Ye and Fuentes. Among the handful to decry the event was Trump endorser and former Democratic New York state assemblyman Dov Hikind, who stated that the “incident goes beyond the pale.” Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro—who in 2016 called out the anti-Semitism of candidate Trump’s base before offering a defense, just two years later, of President Trump’s racism—accused Trump of dining with “a vile racist and anti-Semite.” Morton Klein, the leader of the Zionist Organization of America—which in November presented Trump with its highest honor—told The New York Times that he has “become very frightened for my people,” because Trump “legitimizes Jew hatred and Jew haters.”
It’s impossible to isolate anti-Semitism from the other hatreds that Trump and the entire GOP have made obvious—and made policy. Over the past eight years, the right’s rebukes of Blackness, transness, queerness, and foreignness have been deafening. Creating moral distinctions among oppressions only aids those whose destructive agenda relies on your forgetting. “Teaching that many Jews were killed during the Holocaust doesn’t teach a thing about antisemitism except for where it inevitably leads,” cautions the Jewish writer Elad Nehorai. “Teach about what leads to holocausts, pogroms, mass shootings. Teach about fascism. Teach about other forms of bigotry and how they connect.”
We see the tragic consequences of ignoring these connections in recent mass shootings. The shooter at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh had previously posted hateful social media messages about the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, which aids refugees, writing: “the filthy evil jews Bringing the Filthy evil Muslims into the Country!!” The Buffalo shooter, who murdered Black folks as they did their grocery shopping, posted an online screed in which he described himself as an “anti-Semite” and accused figures like George Soros, who is Jewish, of being “majorly responsible for the destruction of our White culture.”
In the GOP, we have a party of people who rail against “globalists” and “internationalists.” An Anti-Defamation League audit noted that 2021 saw the most anti-Semitic incidents since the organization started tracking the numbers in 1979. That horrible milestone did not come out of the blue; anti-Semitic attacks have been trending upward since 2016.
“Hatred of Jews has become entangled with many other kinds of hatred,” Beth S. Wenger, a scholar of Jewish history at Penn State, observed recently. “That realization is especially apparent in our current moment, where attacks against Jews, African Americans, animus toward immigrants, hatred for those who defy traditional gender norms are often expressed at the same time. Many times, but not always, these prejudices are wrapped up together by white supremacists and other hate groups.”
This is the manifestation of an ideology that banned Muslims from entering the country, that prohibited transgender people from serving in the military, that muzzled federal employees on the topic of anti-Black racism, and that insists—under penalty of law in some states—that we celebrate genocidal leaders and enslavers such as Andrew Jackson and Christopher Columbus but ban books about the Holocaust. There’s no ethical difference between anti-trans ideology, anti-Black oppression, and anti-Semitism. And white supremacy makes useful tools of those foolish enough to think they are an exception. I feel certain Ye will learn this lesson in an unfortunate way.