In response his deplorable antisemitic comments, Adidas, The Gap, Def Jam, Balenciaga, and Vogue terminated their relationships with Kanye West in October. Footlocker subsequently announced that it "would not be supporting any future Yeezy product drops, and we have instructed our retail operators to pull any existing product from our shelves and digital sites." TJ Maxx also said in a statement it would stop selling West's Yeezy brand in its more than 1,000 stores. In addition, top Hollywood talent agency CAA dropped him from its client roster .
Despite the enormous backlash he has received this fall, West, who now goes by Ye, has since doubled down on his antisemitism in horrible, indefensible ways. For instance, earlier this week, Ye said the following in his interview with far-right radio host Alex Jones : "I like Hitler… I love Jewish people, but I also love Nazis… I see good things about Hitler." He was also kicked off Twitter this week for sharing an image of a swastika combined with the Star of David. For these reasons (as well as all of the despicable antiblack statements Ye keeps making ), I must end my relationship with one of my favorite artists.
In an article I wrote six weeks ago , I made a desperate plea for someone, anyone to help the legendary music producer, rapper, and fashion icon get the help he needs to deal with his disability. I received exponentially more praise than pushback for writing it. Fewer than ten people contacted me directly to disagree with my stance or tagged me in social media posts that were critical of the arguments I offered.
Years ago, Ye publicly acknowledged that he has bipolar disorder . An attorney who is more expert than me on this particular disability sent me an email insisting that being bipolar doesn't make people say the awful things Ye has repeatedly said. I honor and am persuaded by that person's perspective.
A faculty colleague here at the University of Southern California contacted me to express worry that Ye's remarks about Jewish people would ignite more antisemitism, especially among young people who admire him. As a social scientist, I won't irresponsibly claim causation without having rigorously studied a phenomenon. But I'll highlight here recent research from The ADL Center on Extremism that shows a sharp increase in antisemitic violence over the last few years. It is therefore highly likely that Ye's statements have exacerbated, not reduced this horrifying trend in recent months.
The first article I wrote about Kanye came from a place of deep care as one of his biggest fans. But there are others who matter more to me. A longtime friend and role model of mine who is Jewish reasonably suggested to me that the emphasis in my article felt misplaced — too much on saving Kanye's billions and his career, not enough on holding him accountable. I didn't respond defensively to this viewpoint, but instead took some time to deeply reflect on it. I re-read what I wrote through my friend's interpretative lens. He wasn't wrong.
Canceling and discarding people, taking everything from them aren't the remedies I typically advocate. I'm a proponent of restorative justice — giving someone the opportunity to listen to the people who've been harmed, apologize, and then work as hard as possible to make things right with those people (including, but not limited to doing some of what they suggested is necessary for the reparation of harm). It's clear to me that Ye has absolutely no interest in doing any version of this. Hence, I'm no longer able to advocate for his wellness at the expense of those whom his words and actions harm.
As noted in my October article, I don't know Kanye. We've never met; I've only been in the audience at six of his concerts. Even though I don't have a personal relationship with Ye, I do have a credible brand that I leveraged on his behalf as an act of desperation to get him the help he needs for his disability. I'm also a hip-hop DJ who often plays lots of his music during my gigs. At this point, any alignment with Ye undermines my values and threatens my reputation and businesses.
Despite the genius that he brought to their relationships, the businesses that dropped him as a client and partner arrived at this determination six weeks earlier than I did. Notwithstanding, I still don't regret calling on Ye's friends, family members, influential industry colleagues, doctors, therapists, legal team members, trusted financial advisors, and business partners to help him. I still hope they do.
West's antisemitic statements have forced some hard, long-overdue conversations about breakdowns in Black and Jewish relations in the United States. Tensions between the two groups have long existed, but haven't been talked about as much in recent years as they are being discussed right now. Those conversations must continue to occur within communities and industries.
Over the past month, many companies with which I work have started requesting professional learning sessions on antisemitism, much more so than I've seen over the past 20 years. Antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other encounters with religious discrimination in workplaces and societies typically aren't included in DEI trainings that companies offer employees. They ought to be. Professional learning curricula in businesses need more, not less of this.
One other reason why I don't regret writing my first Kanye article is related to LeBron James' demonstration of bravery earlier this week. He called out reporters for not asking him about a photo that recently surfaced of Jerry Jones , owner of the Dallas Cowboys, as a 14 year-old who joined other white teens in attempting to block Black students from desegregating an Arkansas high school. James courageously highlighted the attention and penalties that Kyrie Irving has recently received for his antisemitic actions . He then noted that the same level of public interest and accountability isn't there when harmful things are said about or done to Black people. Not everyone agreed with James' viewpoint. Regardless, it forces an important set of conversations about racialized double standards as they are observed and experienced by diverse peoples within professional sports and other industries.
I've tried to model here in this article an approach that I often advocate in coaching work I do with executives and leaders. I tell them it's okay to reconsider and publicly change their stances after being told that something they or others did harmed a group of people. I also insist on using one's leadership platforms to boldly denounce antisemitism, sexism, racism, transphobia, and other forms of injustice, even when doing so requires very publicly distancing oneself from a colleague or high profit-earning business partner.
I still desperately want someone to help Kanye get the help he needs for his disability. But, at this point, it's more important to me that his destructive antisemitic and anti-Black actions immediately stop.
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