After walking the bizarre Balenciaga mudpit, the artist formerly known as Kanye West is making headlines for his newest Paris Fashion Week stunt: wearing matching “White Lives Matter” shirts with conservative U.S. political commentator Candace Owens at his surprise Yeezy show on Monday.
The shirt, which has a photo of Pope John Paul in the front and the slogan at the back, was part of his fashion brand’s upcoming collection. Models, including Lauryn Hill’s daughter Selah Marley, were sent down the runway wearing different versions of the shirt.
This is the second time Ye has paired up with Owens for a conservative fashion statement, with him designing a “Blexit” shirt in 2018.
It didn’t sit well with Jaden Smith who left the show, tweeting that he “had to dip” and that it didn’t matter to him who was behind it. “If I Don’t Feel The Message I’m out (sic).” He also alluded to Ye’s pre-show statement about being a leader, posting, “True Leaders Lead.”
The young rapper and actor later tweeted out “Black Lives Matter” and “We Demand A More Progressive Future.” (Don’t tell me the Smith kids weren’t raised well.)
Smith was not the only one to criticize the collection. Vogue fashion editor Gabriella Karefa-Johnson called his actions “incredibly irresponsible and dangerous on her Instagram stories.” Ye responded by mocking her appearance in now-deleted posts. Celebrities like Gigi Hadid defended Karefa-Johnson, with Hadid saying to West, “You’re a bully and a joke.”
Vogue released a statement today in support of Karefa-Johnson, saying, “She was personally targeted and bullied. It’s unacceptable.” The statement also revealed that Karefa-Johnson and Ye had a private meeting to discuss what happened, which Ye talked about as well on Instagram.
In case anyone has been living under a rock, “Black Lives Matter (BLM)” is a call to protect Black lives because throughout history Black lives were treated as if they didn’t matter.
Case in point: It originated in the wake of the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who murdered Treyvon Martin, a 17-year-old Black teenager. It has never meant, contrary to many conservative talking points, “Black lives matter more than any other lives,” but instead it’s a reminder that Black lives are human lives. Both the slogan and the civil rights movement itself specifically address America’s history with racism and police brutality, which disproportionately claims more Black people than any other racial groups. As Filipinos with our own reported history of police brutality, we should understand the necessity of the movement.
“White Lives Matter” isn’t the same thing. It’s a reactionary statement countering “Black Lives Matter.” Like “All Lives Matter” and the pro-cop “Blue Lives Matter,” it’s a statement with no actual history or purpose behind it other than to diminish the impact of BLM. It’s saying “Umm actually, white lives matter too” as if BLM was saying it wasn’t. Of course all lives matter! That’s why we’re saying “Black Lives Matter!”
If you can understand that Victoria Justice saying “I think we ALL sing” in response to “Ari sings” was a petty way to center herself, then you can understand that. (Also, if you’re still sending an actress hate for something she said in a random interview 10 years ago and don’t have the same energy for literal Neo-Nazi movements, what are you doing?)
It’s incredibly sad seeing Ye adopting conservative white supremacist ideology. While some people have speculated that his “White Lives Matter” shirt was either done purely for shock value or to parody racism in fashion, I find that hard to believe when it’s presented with an actual conservative figure who believes that white supremacy isn’t a problem. It’s also hard to square up that theory with his public support of Donald Trump.
Yesterday, Ye posted an Instagram Story saying, “Everyone knows ‘Black Lives Matter’ was a scam. Now it’s over. You’re welcome.” While there have been valid criticisms of the BLM foundation, especially with calls for more transparency, the movement is bigger than that single group. Being wary of the foundation should not mean allying yourself with white supremacy.
It’s hard to imagine that this is the same person who criticized George Bush’s inaction during Hurricane Katrina with “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people,” who rapped about institutional racism in his debut album “College Dropout,” or who released a music video depicting police brutality at a fictional rally in “No Church In The Wild.”
“I miss the old Kanye,” Ye rapped in his 2016 album “The Life of Pablo.” Me too, buddy.