Ye (formerly known as Kanye West) is a popular name in the music industry. He is a renowned rapper, this year breaking the record for the most Grammy wins for a hip hop artist. With this popularity he has quite the fan base. He has 18.2 million followers on Instagram and 31.4 million followers on Twitter. With such a big platform there is the responsibility to express oneself without harming others and inciting hatred against other groups. Just one of his posts has the power to impact millions of lives. That kind of influence becomes dangerous when negative information is being consumed by the wrong people.
Ye is known for speaking his mind when it comes to politics and social issues but despite the controversy surrounding some of his posts, his followers continue to increase. Cancel culture has become a popular way to hold people accountable for their past or present harmful messages. Personally, I prefer accountability over canceling an individual outright. But how do you hold a celebrity accountable for something he will not admit is wrong?
On Oct. 3, 2022, Ye made headlines when he posted a picture of himself and conservative influencer Candice Owens wearing matching hoodies that read white lives matter. He received immediate backlash and has defended the post claiming it was humorous and factual. Despite the fact that all lives matter equally the phrase used on the hoodies feels like an obvious jab to the Black Lives Matter movement. The meaning of Black Lives Matter is not controversial. In fact it is a plea for law enforcement to stop killing innocent Black people. According to Harvard School of Public Health Black people are three times more likely to be killed during a police encounter than white people. This statistic is evidence that there’s a serious problem in the police force, since Black people make up only 13% of the population of the United States.
A few days later on Oct. 9, 2022, Ye got locked out of his Instagram and Twitter accounts after posting an antisemitic and violent message.
“[W]hen I wake up I’m going death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE…” Ye tweeted.
There are many questions as to why he is making these vile comments. Is it for media attention? Is it to stay relevant? Is it purely because he does not understand the gravity of the Holocaust and the state of our nation when it comes to police violence?
The Los Angeles Holocaust Museum released a statement about Ye’s tweet.
“Words matter and words have consequences Ye. We urge you to come visit us at Holocaust Museum LA to understand just how words can incite horrific violence and genocides,” the museum said.
“Evoking racial terrorism and murder for personal gain/blame is stratospheric in is audacity and ignorance,” Duverney said.
This isn’t Ye’s first controversy. In 2018, Ye made a comment on TMZ live that sparked another wave of criticism.
“When you hear about slavery for 400 years…for 400 years? That sounds like a choice,” Ye said.
Ye, a famous Black man, has the potential to convince many people of conspiracy theories like this. He has a trend of not understanding pivotal points in history and how they still affect people today. Slavery was not a choice. Summarized from dictionary.com, the definition of slavery is a lack of choice and inability of certain people to see others as anything except property they’re legally entitled to own. Spreading misinformation about topics like slavery has consequences. Not only can Ye’s comments divide our nation further, he is making large events rooted in our history feel small.
Beyond his manic ranting, Ye has also been known to bully individuals. Over the summer, Kim Kardasian filed for divorce from Ye and started to date actor and comedian Pete Davidson. Ye took to Instagram and Twitter to troll Davidson. There was serious concern for Davidson’s safety and mental health from these online attacks. Ye even released a disturbing music video that depicts Davidson getting kidnapped and killed. Fueled by his sympathetic fan base, Ye has felt no need to stop harassing people like this. Currently celebrities like Lizzo, Diddy, Gabriella Karefa-Johnso and Hailey Bieber have felt his wrath on social media.
There is no way for Ye to take back the harm he has inflicted on these people and communities. However, if he wants to regain any sort of respect, he has to take the time to educate himself on why his words are controversial and hurtful. He has to actively try and make a change.
Real harm can come from perpetuating stereotypes, even to celebrities. Ryan Cooglar who directed the “Creed” and “Black Panther” movies was held at gunpoint at his bank while trying to make a withdrawal from his personal account. “Mission Impossible” and “Pulp Fiction” actor Ving Rhames was held at gunpoint in his own home while being misidentified. His neighbor called the police and reported seeing a large Black man breaking into a house. In fact, it was Rhames entering his own home. These instances of violence against these Black men aren’t uncommon, we just hear about them because they’re famous.
Admitting you are wrong and changing your actions is a large statement of your character. This summer Lizzo came out with her album “Special” and Beyonce released her album “Renaissance”. Both artists included the word spaz in one of their songs and received backlash. The word spaz is a derogatory term that targets the disabled community.
Lizzo, unlike Ye, took to Instagram and admitted her mistake.
“It’s been brought to my attention that there is a harmful word in my new song ‘GRRRLS.’ Let me make one thing clear: I never want to promote derogatory language. As a fat Black woman in America I’ve had many hurtful words used against me so I understand the power words can have,” Lizzo said.
Both artists took the word out of their songs, re-recorded and reuploaded their songs without fuss. This is the standard to which I hold artists. I believe that if you are creating content for people you need to understand them and empathize with them. You should not intentionally aim to bring them down.
I do not know what accountability looks like for Ye. I do not know if suspending his social media will provide any insight for him. He may never change. But I believe that these lessons can be learned by the public as well. We can easily learn from others’ mistakes and aim to do better while passing on what we learned. With this hope one day our nation may become less divided.