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Ye: Whistleblower or Instigator?

By: Arlenis Marmolejos

Kanye West at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2015. (Photo via Getty Images)

As the business empire and reputation of musical artist and fashion designer Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, dissolves, many are left in disagreement amid his recent controversies.

Highly lucrative companies like Adidas, Gap, and Balenciaga have terminated their partnerships with Ye after his Paris Fashion Week appearance last month wearing a “White Lives Matter” shirt, followed by a series of antisemitic comments the artist made in interviews and on social media platforms.

Ye’s falling out with corporate partners has cost him his billionaire status. “He forgot that there is always a line that you can’t cross, and he’s finding out the hard way. We shouldn’t reward bigots with excess wealth,” said Caceres.

There are some who believe Ye is the whistleblower of this generation. Ibrahim Conteh, a longtime Kanye West fan majoring in English at St. Thomas Aquinas College in Sparkill, New York, said, “Although there is no denying that he made an illicit comment that shouldn’t have been made, there’s more than enough instances where he has tried to explain what he had meant. Kanye West does not hate Jews.”

Conteh addressed various misinterpretations regarding the artist’s identity as a Black Hebrew Israelite, trusting that all African Americans are unaware of their genealogical Jewish ancestry, which Religion Unplugged says Ye does not have.

Ye’s motive is to “expose white people who power all major entertainment industries that contribute to socialism and the modern slavery of exploiting Black talent,” Conteh claimed.

“Though [Ye] may struggle getting his point across, he doesn’t care about the money; he cares about the truth coming forward. We didn’t buy Yeezys because they were Adidas – we bought them because they were by [Ye],” claimed Conteh.

Adidas AG Yeezy model sneakers in London (Photo via Getty Images)

Despite the negative light shined on Ye, Marah Lewis, a business major at St. John’s University in Queens, New York, cannot deny that he is a successful artist. After Ye garnered an intense backlash from spectators, many consumers are still dedicated to wearing Yeezy apparel. “People will still listen to [Ye] and wear his shoes because truth be told, it makes no difference to stop,” said Lewis.

“[Ye] is putting up this bold and carefree front in the eyes of the world but, truthfully, is struggling behind the scenes,” said Lewis. “He's lost himself in his marriage, family, and battle with mental illness; however, like a rebellious teen, he acts with no repercussions.”

Several Jewish people have ultimately begun asking themselves whether it’s time to leave America due to their lack of safety. “It’s a scary time for Jews around the world, and while Kanye West may not have started this antisemitism, he is still responsible for fanning the flames.” Said Esti Heller, a Purchase student and the president of Hillel, a Jewish nonprofit organization.

On Dec. 2, President Joe Biden condemned Ye's statement in a tweet (Photo via @POTUS on Twitter)

Heller is committed to making Purchase a safe space for students, whether Jewish or not and said she will always condemn and fight against antisemitism and hatred of any kind.

“Ye has an incredibly large platform that could promote peace and goodness, but instead he’s chosen to spread lies and hate,” said Heller. “He’s had countless opportunities to apologize, yet instead continues to double down on his beliefs.”

Ye has initiated an uproar of antisemitic media coverage from having antisemites stand on the 405 freeway in Los Angeles performing Nazi salutes while waving a banner that said, “Kanye was right about the Jews” to having other public figures expressing their thoughts against Jews.

Rachel Hallote, who teaches Jewish studies at Purchase, explained her disapproval towards comedian, Dave Chappelle’s, long antisemitic SNL monologue broadcasted on Nov. 12 as he used Ye and NBA star, Kyrie Irving, as jumping points to promote Jewish prejudice.

“Chappelle, whom people respect, spewing so many old tropes and new ones too, undisguised on national television in the guise of humor, is much more disturbing,” said Hallote.

Toni Johnson, an active social media user from Manhattan, watched the controversial rap veteran, N.O.R.E.’s, “Drink Champs” show on Oct. 15 where Ye made an appearance. Johnson views Ye as problematic but believes his speech doesn’t grant the opportunity to be “openly racist” towards him.

Many have condemned Ye following his antisemitic remarks. “The level of accountability he’s being held to is not equivalent to the level that white people of equal establishment, wealth, and influence abide by,” said Johnson.

Another supporter in favor of Ye’s right to free speech is Dylan Santana, a footwear sales associate who sells Yeezy sneakers in the Bronx. “Ye is unapologetically himself, with his crafts and ideas. He’s a public figure who is presented as if he’s off the rails when in reality, he’s unchaining himself from the pressures of society and the control of the industry,” said Santana.

Santana perceives Ye as an insightful figure rather than an instigator yet, his delivery can come off confusing or “out of pocket because sensitivity in this society has skyrocketed.”

Purchase College student and arts management major, Madison Caceres, voiced her disapproval of Ye’s antisemitism saying, “There should be no room for this type of prejudice in 2022. It shows his ignorance of history and how ‘talk’ becomes ‘action.’ Remember Germany!”



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