Opinion: Condemning Kanye West’s antisemitism is easy. Vigilance is harder.
Last weekend, Kanye West released his latest album, Yeezus, an incendiary work that mixes hard-hitting hip-hop with slick commercial hip-hop. The album is about as far from the hip-hop that was so popular in the 1980s and 1990s as you can get–and West is the one who created this new kind of hip-hop, which sounds as if he read “Mean Streets.”
But if there’s one thing that was obvious to me from listening to Yeezus, especially after listening to its predecessor, The Blueprint 3, it’s that West has a history of making statements and statements that fly in the face of conventional opinion and taste. As I wrote earlier this week, I’ve been critical of West’s comments about President Obama in particular, and his statements about black people. To me, they violate our core values. The things that I find shocking about Yeezus, the things that I find so offensive, aren’t what make me cringe. They’re exactly the opposite of what I’m doing when I write about him. I’m writing about him based on what his actions say. I’m not writing about his music, which isn’t my responsibility. My responsibility is what I think his actions mean.
I’m not the only one to notice this. The media has been quick to condemn the album, and the left and right has been quick to denounce West. I’ve been accused of “politicizing” the matter. The thing is, it’s not Yeezus’s politics alone that make it controversial. West’s statements come across as deeply offensive to people of color, and that’s true whether you think they’re funny or not. In addition, it’s not about what West said about Obama. It’s about what he said about black people.
If you can’t tell what I’m saying, let me restate it for you. When Kanye West says something that doesn’t match what most white people think, they say it’s racist. When he says something that doesn’t match what most white people think, they say he’s