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The Impact of Kanye On British Teens

[February 2023]

In October 2022 Kanye West, one of the most prominent musical artists on the planet, launched into an antisemitic tirade across several media platforms, starting with him tweeting to his 27 million followers. Since, he’s praised Hitler and the Nazis and denied the murder of 6 million Jewish people during the Holocaust[1]. His outbursts blamed Jewish people for controlling the media, the music industry, and profiting off the success of others[2]. This echoes age-old antisemitic tropes[3] perpetuated throughout history, used to justify the persecution, exploitation, and expulsion of Jewish people the world over.


Over the last three months, our Streetwise and Stand Up! Education Against Discrimination projects, are seeing the effects of Kanye’s antisemitism in schools. In Jewish schools, students are aware of what has been said, and bring it up in every session showing their concerns. In mainstream schools, young people are confused as to what was antisemitic about Kanye’s words; these young students don’t see Kanye as an antisemite, rather, someone being unjustly cancelled for expressing a truthful opinion. Young people who might abhor neo-Nazi content, may now voice such views, as they’re hearing it not from a white supremacist, but a musical genius they idolise. In this way Kanye is normalising antisemitic language.


Despite his regurgitation of ancient conspiracy theories, Kanye claimed he couldn’t be antisemitic because “Black people are actually Jew also”. This stems from beliefs held by a group known as the Black Hebrew Israelites, that black people are the true descendants of the ancient Israelites. Sects of this group have been responsible for terrorist attacks targeting Jewish communities in America[4].


Perhaps his greatest and most terrifying achievement has been to bring together extremists on opposite ends of a broad antisemitic spectrum; from the ‘Nation of Islam’ led by the anti-white, antisemitic Louis Farrakhan[5] to white supremacists and Neo Nazis in the US and UK[6]. All have shown Kanye support[7], rallying behind one unifying belief, their hatred of Jews. The far right in the US has come out in support of Kanye, with the unifying ideology that the path to a better world starts by ‘dealing’ with the Jewish people. In the UK white supremacist Tommy Robinson, who until recently focused primarily on the Muslim community, has now verbalised his admiration for Kanye and voiced his antisemitic concerns about ‘the Jewish question’.


Kanye has a history of denigrating the Black community’s struggle in America, having once suggested slavery “was a choice”[8], and donning a ‘White Lives Matter’ T-shirts during Paris fashion week[9] in an endeavour to undermine the Black Lives Matter movement. With these antisemitic tirades Kanye is now facilitating a rift between the Black and Jewish communities, once united in their fight against discrimination, such as during the 1960’s Civil Rights movement, when many Jewish individuals recognised the need to stand shoulder to shoulder in a common cause for civil liberty. Dividing these two communities, has been a tactic of white supremacists, seeking to create division between minority and marginalised groups. Known Neo-Nazis have attempted to spread antisemitic material amongst the Black community in a ploy to daub Jews as the ultimate enemy[10].


Kanye’s claims centre around what he believes to be injustices that have occurred in his life, for which he blames Jewish people. For centuries Jewish communities have been blamed for social crises in this way, and under the shadow of the current economic, political, and social strife across the globe, coupled with social media as an enhancer, Jewish people appear to once again have the finger pointed in their direction. This is why educational projects such as Streetwise and Stand Up! Education Against Discrimination are of paramount importance, providing a safe space, in Jewish and mainstream schools, for young people to ask questions whilst learning about the history of Antisemitism and its age-old stereotypes. Today’s battle is to educate young people on how to recognise, challenge and report anti-Jewish hatred so that students, Jewish and not, are equipped with the tools to tackle the world’s longest hatred and stand up for their own communities and society as a whole.


Dov Green

Stand Up! Coordinator


References: [1] ‘I like Hitler:’ Kanye West denies Holocaust in Alex Jones interview - The Jerusalem Post (jpost.com) [2] Ye (Kanye West): What You Need to Know | ADL [3] Antisemitism Uncovered: Myth – Jews Have Too Much Power (adl.org) [4] Extremist Sects Within the Black Hebrew Israelite Movement | ADL [5] Farrakhan Remains Most Popular Antisemite in America | ADL [6] More extreme than ever: Tommy Robinson reveals his antisemitic views in latest online rant – HOPE not hate [7] https://www.memri.org/tv/nation-of-islam-leader-farrakhan-kyrie-kanye-antisemitism-jews-horrors-against-blacks [8] Kanye West just said 400 years of slavery was a choice | CNN [9] Kanye West shrugs off 'White Lives Matter' shirt criticism - Los Angeles Times (latimes.com) [10] Extremists Are Praising Kanye West’s Antisemitism, Parler Acquisition | ADL

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