Members Only | December 13, 2022 | Reading Time: 4 minutes
Ye’s antisemitism is straight from the white supremacist playbook
And it only serves white supremacy.
Antisemitism is only dominating the news because Kanye West is saying blatantly antisemitic things over and over again. (Really he’s just saying the quiet part out loud for most Republicans).
Sure West, or Ye, is a celebrity being outrageous (though so is Mel Gibson) but the real reason his antisemitism gets more coverage than antisemitic violent incidents is because it can be used to fuel racism and divide the Black and Jewish communities (of course, also erasing the existence of Black Jews). This only serves white supremacy.
In spite of it
There is a narrative in the US that antisemitism is higher in the Black community than the white. People often point to Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam. The media sees Farrakhan as a prominent figure on the left but ignore that he doesn’t just peddle antisemitism but also homophobia, transphobia, sexism and he criticized Barack Obama for being too close to the Jewish community. Farrakhan has appeared on Alex Jones. He has praised Donald Trump.
The media needs to stop pretending this is a liberal movement and demanding the left answer for Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam. Additionally, as John Blake explains, while Farrakhan has always been a controversial figure, what support he does have in the Black community is often in spite of his antisemitism – not because of it.
There was the controversy a few years ago about Women’s March members not condemning Farrakhan, but honestly his homophobia and transphobia should be as appalling to someone wanting to be the leader of a feminist movement. The March did eventually replace these leaders.
While Farrakhan’s antisemitism and false claims about Jews controlling the slave trade have permeated culture (Kyrie Irving recently shared an antisemitic movie on the subject), the popularity of Nation of Islam has significantly waned in recent years.
Many prominent Black people have condemned him, such as US Rep. Barbara Lee and Muhammad Ali, and other Black Muslims denounced Farrakhan back in 1984. However, while I am very appreciative when Black people denounce antisemitism generally and Farrakhan specifically, demanding they do so reeks of racism.
Do you ask every white person about David Duke? Stop giving this man airtime and bringing his name up to use against Black people.
There’s some evidence that antisemitic sentiment is a little more common in the Black community than the white, though it has lessened since the 1990s. There is also evidence to suggest that Black people are significantly more likely to agree that Jewish people face discrimination. Based on my experience, some Black people might repeat an antisemitic trope not realizing that it’s harmful, but are much more open to learning than white people are. Many in the Black community have also spoken out against Kanye West, eager to stand with the Jewish community and show solidarity.
They hurt Black Jews, too
So is the Black community really more antisemitic or are these surveys not asking the right questions? Even worse, is the prevalence of some antisemitic tropes in the Black community in large part due to the outsized focus of the media on portraying Black people as antisemitic and encouraging rifts between our communities?
Not to mention, and I cannot stress this enough, there are Black Jews. We aren’t truly separate communities. To that end, Jewish spaces need to ensure they’re welcoming to Black Jews and Jews of color. White skinned Jews also need to make sure they never-ever ask a Black Jew to condemn Farrakhan or West. These men hurt Black Jews, too.
West repeats antisemitic tropes common among so-called Black Hebrew Israelites (they are a radical fringe group not to be confused with Black Jews), Farrakhan and run-of-the-mill white supremacists.
There’s a lot of crossover in how these groups talk about Jews. It’s hard to tease out sometimes. While antisemitic tropes about Jews and the slave trade, or Jews controlling Hollywood, might exist in the Black community and historical Black movements, Holocaust denial and Hitler praise are common only in white supremacist movements.
In the past few years Kanye West has spent time with Trump, Alex Jones and Nick Fuentes, a white nationalist Holocaust denier. West’s antisemitism has nothing to do with the Black community. It’s straight from the white supremacist playbook.
While many Black people condemn West, radical white nationalists embrace him. West perpetuates ideology and politics that are just as harmful to Black people as they are to Jews. It makes no sense for the media to hold him up as a representative of the Black community.
Many of the statements West made are vile and harmful. But if people really cared about antisemitism, they would be more concerned about men traveling to New York to attack synagogues.
The recently published survey showing that one in four hiring managers exhibit antisemitism in their hiring practices would have gotten much more attention. Supersessionist Christian cooptation of Jewish holidays would be a big news story. The GOP’s constant invocation of dual loyalty tropes against American Jews would be rightfully reported as antisemitism.
A rapper’s antisemitic rantings gets the most attention.
I could talk about the history of cooperation between Black people and Jews in the US, but that history isn’t really the point.
White skinned Jews must face racism in their communities same as Black people must fight strains of antisemitism in theirs.
Whatever our shared history, good and bad, we must see that it serves white supremacy to divide us and encourage tension.
Jewish liberation will never come through racism. We cannot fight antisemitism by allowing the media to throw Black people away.
The threat is rising white nationalism.
We must fight that threat together.
Mia Brett, PhD, is the Editorial Board's legal historian. She lives with her gorgeous dog, Tchotchke. You can find her @queenmab87.