Ye, the artist formerly known as Kanye West, who is as well known for his outlandish behavior and polemic views as for his contributions to music and fashion, spurred outrage after a series of antisemitic social media posts on Oct. 7.
Holocaust Museum L.A. is trying to turn Ye’s behavior into a teachable moment.
“Words matter and words have consequences Ye. We urge you to come visit us at Holocaust Museum L.A. to understand just how words can incite horrific violence and genocides. The Holocaust started with only words that sadly begat stereotypes, racial and religious tropes and … led to the murder of six million Jews,” the museum said in a statement. “At Holocaust Museum L.A. it is our mission to commemorate those who were murdered, educate on the Holocaust and all genocides, including the genocide perpetrated against the Armenian people (of which your children would be included), and inspire a more dignified and humane world.”
After stirring controversy early last week for wearing a White Lives Matter shirt at a Paris fashion show, Ye faced renewed backlash for his antisemitic posts, including a now-deleted Tweet where he wrote “I’m a bit sleepy tonight but when I wake up I’m going death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE.” He continued, “The funny thing is I actually can’t be antisemitic because Black people are actually Jew also. You guys have toyed with me and tried to black ball anyone who opposes your agenda.”
Tropes about Jews controlling the media and other sectors of society have long been used as justification for violence against them, including before the Holocaust, Holocaust Museum L.A. CEO Beth Keane said.
“Holocaust survivors in our community tell us that when they hear these hateful stereotypes it’s reminiscent of the 1930s leading to the Holocaust,” Kean said.
Kean reacted to Ye’s post with a mixture of disappointment, disgust and fear that “a celebrity with such a large following and influence was using his voice and his platform to fan the flames of rising antisemitism.”
Last year, the Anti-Defamation League found that antisemitic incidents hit an all-time high in the United States of 2,717, with attacks on Jewish institutions increasing by 61% from 2020, and assaults on Jewish people increasing by 167%.
Richard Hirschhaut, L.A. director of the American Jewish Committee, a leading global Jewish advocacy organization, said that with Ye’s tens of millions of online followers, antisemitic remarks he posts reach an audience that dwarfs the size of the global Jewish population, potentially providing cover to people who already harbor antisemitic views.
Both Hirschhaut and Kean commended Meta, the parent company of Instagram and Twitter, for deleting content from and restricting Ye’s Instagram page. Hirschhaut called antisemitism “the template and gateway for other forms of hate,” and said that all of society, not just Jews, must reject antisemitism.
Antisemitism is so hard to stamp out because many people wrongly view the Jewish population as monolithic, failing to recognize there are Jews of color and from all backgrounds, Hirschhaut said. People also falsely believe that because many Jews are “white passing,” they cannot be subject to discrimination or hatred, a myth disproven by the fact that Jews account for the overwhelming majority of religiously motivated hate crimes while only comprising 2% of the country’s population, Hirschhaut said.
Hirschhaut said that all forms of hatred are interconnected, pointing to the upheaval on the Los Angeles City Council following a recording of former council President Nury Martinez making racist comments as an example of “the toxicity of the poison of hate and prejudice.”
“All proponents and perpetrators of hate equally deserve our condemnation and rebuke, and this is where America can begin to come together. If we recognize we really are all in this together, there is tremendous power in allyship and empathy for one another,” Hirschhaut said.
Accepting the museum’s invitation would be an opportunity for Ye to begin this healing, Hirschhaut said. After walking through the museum with an open mind, accompanied perhaps by one of his children or by a Holocaust survivor, Hirschhaut hopes that Ye would emerge with “a greater understanding and greater empathy.”
Asked what questions she would ask Ye if he were to accept the invitation, Kean had a simple answer: “I would ask him if he understands the reach and power of his words. I’d want him to meet and talk with a Holocaust survivor to learn from a first-hand witness where hate and prejudice can lead when bigotry goes unchecked.”
On Oct. 12, a museum spokesperson said that while Ye hasn’t responded, staff are optimistic he will accept.
Ye did not respond to request for comment, but he vented his frustration in a series of Twitter posts following his Instagram suspension.
“Look at this Mark. How you gone kick me off Instagram,” he wrote on Oct. 7 under a picture of him and Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who is holding a microphone. “Who you think created cancel culture,” he added on Oct. 8.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.
Leave a Reply