In recent years the phrase “White Lives Matter” has been adopted by white-supremacist organisations, including the Ku Klux Klan, and is categorised by the Anti-Defamation League as a hate slogan.
“Everyone knows that Black Lives Matter was a scam. Now it’s over. You’re welcome,” Kanye later added, alluding to the original phrase – used to protest racial injustice, discrimination, and police brutality - that West’s T-shirt was appropriating.
That’s not all. Before sending models also sporting the tee down the runway, the rapper posed for a photo with Candace Owens, a conservative commentator who is known for her extremely politically disruptive opinions. “Seeing Ye and Candace both in that shirt hurts my soul,” one Twitter user commented.
While former ESPN presenter Jemele Hill tweeted: “So many folks are trying to excuse Kanye wearing a white lives matter t-shirt as just a troll move or marketing. Maybe it is. But it’s a dangerously dumb message for someone with his massive platform.”
This is not the first time the rapper has undermined Black rights. He has long lent his support to worrying figures, ideologies, and symbols - in fact, as early as 2013, he has emblazoned tour merch with the always-controversial confederate flag.
“React how you want,” he said. “Any energy is good energy. You know the Confederate flag represented slavery. in a way – that’s my abstract take on what I know about it.”
The billionaire entrepreneur also tweeted his support for President Donald Trump in 2018: “You don’t have to agree with Trump but the mob can’t make me not love him. We are both dragon energy. He is my brother,” the rapper wrote. “I love everyone. I don’t agree with everything anyone does. That’s what makes us individuals. And we have the right to independent thought.”
Then, a month later, he further shocked fans when he made comments about slavery. “You hear about slavery for 400 years. 400 years? That sounds like a choice,” he said during a TMZ Live interview. “Like, that was there for 400 years and it’s all of ya’ll? It’s, like, we’re mentally in a prison. I like the word ‘prison’ because slavery is too direct to the idea of Blacks.”
He continued his outrageous tirade against the Black rights movement in his first presidential campaign rally in South Carolina in July 2020, where Ye claimed that Harriet Tubman “never actually freed” the dozens of enslaved people she took through the Underground Railroad, before rambling about his “genius” IQ. During the rally, West also said he doesn’t care whether he wins the presidency, adding, “I care that there are homeless people in front of the Gucci store.”
Throughout all of these controversial moments, West has consistently associated himself - and at times, even defended –controversial celebrities. For example, in 2016, Ye sparked outrage when he tweeted, "BILL COSBY INNOCENT !!!!!!!!!!” - despite the multiple sexual-assault cases that were being stacked against the Nineties actor.
While, in 2021, he invited Marilyn Manson and DaBaby (who at the time were facing sexual-assault and anti-gay allegations) onstage for his "Donda" listening event. At the time, the internet berated the decision: “Wait, so Kanye has Dababy and Marilyn Manson on the stage with him? A homophobe and an alleged abuser?!? I cannot." Wrote one user.
As one fan has pointed out this morning: “I don’t think we’ll get a coherent explanation. Ye operates on shock value for promotion of his work, there really can’t be a much deeper thread.” Each of his harmful public outbursts is usually accompanied with the release of a new album or even the announcement that he would be running for president, leading many to call his inflammatory comments dirty PR opportunities.
“The T-shirts this man conceived, produced, and shared with the world are pure violence. There is no excuse, there is no art here,” wrote the fashion editor Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, who was present at yesterday’s show, before adding that, “it’s so hugely irresponsible to furnish the most dangerous extremists with this kind of narrative.”
Exploiting – inciting, even – hate movements across the world, Ye is once again inexcusably using his platform to selfishly promote his own agenda. And it’s time that we stop feeding into it. And, with the backlash to his show in full swing, it seems the fashion world has certainly had enough.