Kanye West: A history of hostility that can no longer be ignored

On Dec. 16, a Jewish man was assaulted in Central Park, suffering a broken hand and other injuries in what is being investigated as a hate crime. The perpetrator delivered several antisemitic remarks before revealing the motivation for his attack, yelling, “Kanye 2024” as he fled the scene.

This incident adds to a rise in antisemitism that has accompanied a number of recent derogatory and threatening comments from musical artist Ye, formerly known as Kanye West. The rapper’s tirade began on Oct. 8, shortly after his Instagram account was restricted after he posted screenshots of antisemitic text messages sent to rapper Sean Combs.

That night, Ye tweeted that he planned to go “death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE,” seemingly a reference to the ranking system used by the U.S. military to measure security threats. Since this initial infraction, Ye made many media appearances, including interviews with Chris Cuomo and Piers Morgan, in which he used his time to reiterate more hate speech, refusing to show remorse.

Throughout November, Ye continued to take every opportunity possible to spew antisemitic rhetoric, prompting brands he formerly partnered with, such as Adidas and Balenciaga, to sever ties with him. Just when it seemed like things could not get any worse, on Dec. 1, Ye appeared on far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’s show in which he expressed his admiration for Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Later that night, Twitter suspended Ye in response to his post of an image of the Star of David interlaced with a swastika.

Despite the fact that antisemitism has plagued our nation for ages, Ye’s attack feels unprecedented. It is not just his celebrity status that confronts us with a new and terrifying reality — it’s his reach. With just over 32 million followers on Twitter alone before he was banned, Ye catered to an audience of massive proportions, allowing for a never-before-seen amplification of his hate speech to the mainstream.

The implications of Ye’s abhorrent antisemitic rant are becoming increasingly clear. According to nypost.com, New York City experienced a 125 percent increase in antisemitic hate crimes in November, coinciding with the peak of Ye’s hate speech. This follows a record high of hateful and violent incidents targeting Jewish people in 2021, as reported by the Anti-Defamation League.

Such acts as a result of Ye’s rhetoric could have been easily predicted, as could the escalation of his comments. Ye has built a brand off of stirring up controversy and has gained much publicity from it which should never have been enabled in the first place. He has survived many unexcusable scandals and has reportedly been expressing antisemitic sentiments for up to 20 years, as sources who worked with him in the past told Rolling Stone.

One question stands: What took so long? Had society, media corporations and companies associated with Ye reacted to his past offenses with the ferocity that they required, he would not have had the platform to promote the normalization of such disgusting language and elicit individuals to act upon these ideas. Continually, Ye should have been prevented from taking advantage of other public platforms after his initial offense on Oct. 8, where his interviews just added fuel to the fire.

Words matter. Fans have been quick to jump to Ye’s defense, writing off both his recent bouts of antisemitism and past controversies as a product of his struggle with bipolar disorder. The insinuation that hate speech is a symptom of any mental health condition is not only inaccurate but stigmatizing to everyone dealing with them.

The time has come to stop allowing influential figures who thrive on shock value to escalate until their behavior can no longer be swept under the rug. Once this point is reached, it is already too late. Providing these celebrities with further chances to spew their hateful rhetoric to a larger audience through public appearances does far more harm than good. It takes a village to prevent hateful rhetoric from running rampant. It falls in the hands of both society and media corporations to condemn and remove hate speech at its beginning stages before it can materialize into action.