Recently, Kanye West, who currently goes by Ye, has been under fire (rightfully so), for his anti-Semitic rhetoric and behavior.
A few of Ye’s comments include perpetuating the stereotype that Jewish people are greedy in his Fox News interview. He also alleged that Diddy is being controlled by Jewish people. And when accused of being antisemitic, Ye responded by saying that black people were the original Jews, so how could he be anti-Semitic?
I wish I could pretend to be surprised by Ye’s antisemitic remarks. I wish I could stand here with everyone else, aghast that Ye, of all people, would say something as heinous as he did. But honestly, I can’t.
Anti-Semitism is the prejudice or hatred of Jews. Unfortunately, anti-Semitism has been on the rise around the world recently. According to the ADL, a non-profit that fights anti-Semitism, there have been at least 401 incidents in 2022 in the United States alone.
As a black person, I have been surrounded by anti-Semitic dog whistles most of my life. I’ve heard the whisper of, “if black people held on to their money like Jewish people we’d be better off”. I’ve had to argue with the hoteps that no, we are not in fact the original Jews and why that is an anti-Semitic thing to say. Because no matter how you spin it, telling Jewish people, “nahh you’re not really Jews, we are,” isn’t the move you think it is.
So, when Ye came out with those same rhetorics, I wasn’t surprised. I have heard it countless times from all types of people. But I only recently found out the reason why black people claim to be the original Jews comes from a part of black supremacy. It was originally used to combat the racist notion that black people are inferior and has since become a favorite saying of your annoying hotep cousin ever since.
Black people aren’t the original Jews, and we aren’t the original Native Americans. While we can argue that all life originated in Africa, that doesn’t mean we lay claim to these people and their culture. It erases the struggles, lives, and culture of every other person in the world.
Ye’s words affect Jewish people. He is a man of power and influence, his words show how the black community needs to be more aware of the anti-Semitism in our culture and how we can hurt those in our culture as well. There are many black Jews who feel disconnected from their blackness because of the casual anti-Semitism that we cosign, whether it be knowingly or unknowingly.
Sadly, another anti-Semitic trope that black people tend to subscribe to is that Jewish people own everything. Remember Jay Z’s “Story of OJ”? He played directly into that stereotype when he rapped, “You wanna know what’s more important than throwin’ away money at a strip club? Credit / You ever wonder why Jewish people own all the property in America? This how they did it.”
When called out, he simply said “context is everything.” But there is no context that makes anti-semitism okay. Jay getting off saying that with no more than a slap on the wrist is incredibly harmful and upsetting.
Black Twitter, however, didn’t let Ye get off the hook so easily and was swift to call him out in his anti-Semitic rhetoric. The Black Jewish Entertainment Alliance spoke openly about how harmful Ye’s words were. And many black people echoed how what he said was unacceptable. Black people are quick to speak out when they know something is wrong, which is what I love about our community. We are kind, we fight for injustices.
Unfortunately, the fact that anti-Semitism is so ingrained in our society makes it hard for black people to know when something being said is actually anti-Semitic. Things about Jewish people that you just roll with, because that’s how your family talks need to be observed and called out. The ingrained bias that we have towards the Jewish community makes other Jewish people, black Jews in particular, feel unwelcome.
Black Jewish people have been vocal about not feeling respected by either part of their community and have too often been forced to pick a side in situations such as these. By looking for and listening to Black Jewish voices, we can learn how to spot anti-Semitism and help us understand the Jewish community more.
I personally have found that Jewish people and black people have a lot in common. Our cultures intertwine in a weird way. From our love of our families (even when they are overbearing) to our love of our food and culture.
We have a lot of history here in the United States that is harmful. Black people know more than almost any ethnic group in the country how it feels like to be spat on, disregarded, and hated. So why would we perpetuate that same hate, even unknowingly?
Anti-Semitism is very real, and these comments from Ye and the lack of pushback he’s actually received from them show that. I am glad for all the black voices that spoke up in regard to his hate, but I am also heartbroken that we perpetuate some of the hate as well. The more that we learn the dog whistles the more we can stop antisemitism in our community.