Some things in life are worth it. Paying extra money for a special concert ticket, enjoying a well-cooked, juicy steak––these things are accepted, even celebrated. However, when the enjoyment lies in someone else’s creation, like a song or artwork, morality is muddied. Within the last few weeks, the rapper Ye, previously known as Kanye West, has come under fire for his anti-Semitic comments and his “White Lives Matter” shirts. His actions have caused Twitter and Instagram to block his account for violating their hate speech policies, and Adidas has ended its partnership with West’s brand Yeezy. In light of these events, I began to wonder: can you appreciate someone’s art without appreciating the artist? I would strongly argue that you cannot, because by appreciating someone’s art you are supporting the person themselves, which gives them the platform to perpetuate hate.
I understand that Ye has built his brand around his incendiary comments to the point where the controversy that follows him is essential to his artist persona. However, he is constantly, absolutely, and always unnecessarily problematic. His music may be revolutionary, his fashion sense impeccable, and his designer’s eye unrivaled. But—and this is an important but—no amount of creativity should warrant the extent of abuse he wages on other people. He is violent with his words, openly creating societal rifts and encouraging his die-hard fandom to descend on innocent people. Frankly, it’s unacceptable.
Ye is particularly harmful because of his reach. He is always able to spread misinformation and hateful rhetoric to loyal fans, who will consume his media and content no matter what he says. Ye is far from the only anti-Semitic person or “White Lives Matter” supporter out there, but his enormous platform offers him the opportunity to bring these fringe movements into everyday conversation and culture. He is unique in that he is essentially allowed to say whatever he wants because he is famous. As if to prove this point, over the years, Ye has gotten particularly adept at weaving hate into the fabric of society. He has spread outrageous claims and demonstrated appalling ignorance and racism.
Listening to his music, buying his clothes, or interacting with his brand in any way whatsoever only strengthens his ability to control the mainstream narrative. By supporting an artist who perpetuates ideas of racism and anti-Semitism, one is effectively condoning this kind of behavior. Even a seemingly inconsequential act like streaming his song a single time makes these ideas more accessible and enables people to create a culture of oppressive acceptance. It sends the dangerous message that artistic geniuses are allowed to say and do whatever they want without repercussions.
Ye has transcended “cancel culture” to the point where he is unable to be silenced. Vogue recently released a statement on Instagram defending one of their editors for pushing back against the Yeezy fashion show, and calling out Ye for the infamous “White Lives Matter” shirts. I understand Vogue’s motives—they had to defend a member of their organization who was being targeted for pointing out an obvious flaw in Ye’s “art.” She did what everyone else was thinking, but no one else had the courage to do. Letting Ye continue this path of controversy is unacceptable. No one in a civilized world should act that way without consequences.
No art is worth the price of enabling and sustaining hatred. I don’t listen to Ye, so maybe cutting his music out doesn’t really have an impact on my life. However, as a prominent member of today’s music and fashion, we must recognize that Ye plays a significant role in defining society’s tolerance for racism and anti-Semitism. You cannot support him without supporting movements that promote discrimination and hatred on the basis of race and religion. Those two things will never be mutually exclusive. By supporting Ye, you give him a platform—a platform that he regularly uses and will continue to use to spread misinformation and hate speech.
It may almost seem like he is too embedded in the fabric of our society to just up and disappear. I fundamentally disagree. By not giving him attention, by not giving a method and mode through which he can be controversial, he can be silenced. We can again remind ourselves of what it is like to live in a world where models do not walk down runways wearing “White Lives Matter” shirts. So just stop listening, stop consuming his media, and stop wearing his clothes. It truly makes you a better person to stand against his hatred.