Can Ye West ever support the black community again after siding with right-wing ideologies?

One writer dives into the Ye West controversy and whether he can occupy both ends of the spectrum...

Ye West wearing a black cap and gum shield at Paris Fashion Week
Getty Images
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The rapper Ye recently staged a surprise Yeezy fashion show in Paris which showcased his YZY season 9 collection. Ye, alongside Candance Owen, took this opportunity to promote a sweatshirt with the statement ‘White Lives Matter’ emblazoned on the back, causing a Twitter meltdown.

To put things in context, the term ‘white lives matter’ is a deliberate and calculated white supremacist rebuttal against the ‘antiracist’ Black Lives Matter slogan. The term is covertly racist, a hate slogan which negates the feelings and lived experiences of People of colour (known as microinvalidations). It is a ‘simple truth’ that has become a blatant and offensive weapon against racial justice and equality.

So why on earth did Ye decide to promote this controversial statement at his fashion show? Was it a harmful publicity stunt or could he have been trying to send a deeper message?

Outraged artists and activists have been debating this very question in the weeks since, and with West suspended from Twitter, the conversation has only got louder.

While Ye has been universally called out for his 'dangerous' statement and its subsequent fuelling of the white lives matter movement, many have desperately been trying to make sense of it all - particularly given Ye's past support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Could it be, they argue, that this harmful statement is actually trying to send a hidden message and raise awareness around a bigger cause? But either way, can Ye support the black community while siding with right-wing ideologies?

Ye is an amalgamation of unpredictability, ego, narcissism and an unwillingness to conform. And while his confidence and freethinking spirit are qualities that many admire, his abrupt ideological change of political direction has led to a great degree of confusion and concern amongst fans and commentators alike.

On one hand Ye advocates for the black community, donating 2 million dollars to the families of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. But on the other hand, he supports former US president Donald Trump, who has openly displayed both covert and overt racism towards the Black and Brown Community, referring to immigrants as rapists, drug smugglers and criminals.

Can Ye occupy both sides of the spectrum, or is it feasible that somewhere in his fumbled attempts at politics he is actually trying to pull attention back to the Black Lives Matter movement?

His fans think so, with some believing that the 'stunt' is actually an attempt to address an overwhelming elephant in the room, the question of where all the BLM donations went.

The death of George Floyd in 2020 marked a turning point in the debate about racism. Many people were quick to support the BLM movement and made substantial donations to the Black Lives Matter organisations both in the US and the UK. But the fact of the matter is, despite BLM USA raising $90 million and BLM UK raising £1.2 million, no one is quite sure where all those donations ended up. Two years on and we have yet to see a BLM school, BLM local community facilities or any prominent BLM resource materialise.

We have however been shown details of Patrisee Cullors (BLM co-founder and self-confessed abolitionist and Marxist sympathiser) and her lavish spending sprees, including a multimillion-pound mansion located in a predominantly white area. Maybe she bought the property with her own earnings – if so, the question still remains: where the BLM money at? A question that could make sense of a recent Instagram post from Ye:

“Everyone knows that Black Lives Matter was a scam, now it’s over – you’re welcome”

Another theory is that Ye's 'white lives matter' tees are an attempt to make the offensive slogan 'inert' and therefore powerless. We all know that the ‘N word’ was used to degrade and demean Black People until we reclaimed it, and some believe that the same is being done with 'white lives matter'.

Could it be that Ye was attempting to highlight a blatant, uncomfortable and awkward truth? It's possible. His actions have indeed re-ignited the debate about racism and cast a spotlight on whether the BLM organisations have done enough to support People of Colour. But Ye's political antics were ill-timed and ill-conceived. They were at best insensitive and at worst reckless, with his approach giving license to white supremacists and fuelling the cause of ‘white lives matter’ supporters (of which there are plenty).

The debate still remains as to whether Ye was trying to support the black community, but surely it cannot be done by siding with right-wing ideologies.

Imarn Ayton

Imarn is a writer, presenter and activist from South London who came to prominence during a Black Lives Matter protest in May 2020. She went on to organise several protests including one in London with 20,000 people on Saturday 6th June.

Ayton has become a motivational speaker and diversity thought leader. Images of her during the protests captured by British Vogue photographer (Misan Harriman) have been featured in media across the world. She has written for British Vogue, UK GQ and The Face magazine.