Opinion: Condemning Kanye West’s antisemitism is easy. Vigilance is harder.
Earlier this week, Kanye West was caught on surveillance camera, in what the Southern Poverty Law Center dubbed an “anti-Semitic act.” The clip, which shows West’s visit to a store he owns called The Grove, was released on November 26, 2015. It depicts West, while purchasing “G-SHOCK,” a Jewish-themed “toy” for his son, kneeling down before a selection of Nazi imagery. “Oh my God,” he says, as he stares at a picture of a Jewish star.
West posted a short statement in support of Jewish individuals on Saturday, December 27, 2015. “It is very important to all of us as black people, we have to not make it look like it’s OK to be antisemitic or to want to destroy the black community,” he said. “I am one of the most supportive and loving black people that you could ever meet.” This statement was in direct contrast to that of his infamous 2016 “swift boat” ad, which urged black voters to believe it was justifiable to kill non-black voters who opposed the biracial Democratic Party candidates. The ad, in response to the George Zimmerman case, which many black voters thought was unjustly targeting a young African-American who was unarmed, was widely condemned by the black community, and sparked a nationwide debate about the definition of hate speech. When West criticized the ad, he was roundly condemned by black leaders like actor Michael Ealy and rapper/actor Common.
The anti-Semitic nature of the West ad caused controversy and left-wing criticism, because West’s words were so out of character for him. But the fact that it was recorded by a private citizen clearly made it a very public issue. And the fact that it only took a short amount of time for it to be released, coupled with his seemingly defiant attitude regarding it, shows the power of social media. People are now aware of something that would’ve been nearly impossible to uncover in a more public, two-year-long campaign.