Kanye West’s White Lives Matter controversy

Rapper blames ‘liberal Nazis’ for a storm of condemnation over T-shirt

Kanye West
West has been accused of ‘attention-seeking antics’
(Image credit: Edward Berthelot/GC Images)

Adidas says it is reviewing its partnership with Kanye West after the rapper and designer wore a shirt bearing the words “White Lives Matter” at Paris Fashion Week.

West, who is no stranger to controversy, appeared at an event wearing a top with “White Lives Matter” on the back. Alongside him, his guest, the controversial right-wing YouTuber Candace Owens, was wearing the same shirt.

The stunt has sparked a storm of controversy but West shows no sign of backing down.

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The ‘other side’

Despite the growing criticism, West has “doubled down on his decision to debut the offensive t-shirt”, said Rolling Stone, boasting about the attention his shirt received at Paris. “Nothing happened but my t-shirt,” he wrote. “Remember my one t-shirt took allllll the attention.”

He has also described Black Lives Matter as a scam. “Everyone knows that Black Lives Matter was a scam now it’s over you’re welcome,” he wrote on Instagram, according to NME. A source said West “wants to give a voice to the ‘other side’”, of the race debate in the US, Page Six reported. “He doesn’t understand why people aren’t seeing that.”

‘Attention-seeking antics’

Many people are not seeing the episode the same way as Kanye West, said The New York Times. The Anti-Defamation League has deemed the phrase “White Lives Matter” – which was coined as a retort to the Black Lives Matter movement – “hate speech and attributed [it] to white supremacists (including the Ku Klux Klan)”, said the paper.

“Be clear,” wrote Mitchell S. Jackson for Esquire, “white lives matter, like Blue Lives Matter, is a motto meant to negate the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement, to imperil the humanity of Black people writ large.”

West’s “attention-seeking antics are as exhausting as they are frustrating”, said Scott Woods for Columbus Monthly. He dismissed the stunt as “damage for damage’s sake”, and a moment that “only serves those who worship at the altar of attention”.

Jaden Smith, a front-row guest at the fashion show in Paris, left as soon as he spotted the shirts and Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, global fashion editor-at-large at Vogue, described the stunt as “hugely irresponsible”.

A fellow rapper has also come out against the shirts. “I’ve always been there, and I will always support my brother Kanye as a freethinker,” said Sean “Diddy” Combs in a video on Instagram. “But the ‘white lives matter’ t-shirt, I don’t rock with it, you know what I’m saying? I’m not with it.”

Fashion magazine pointed the finger elsewhere. “It is the corporations who back his fashion ventures, the consumers who buy his wares and the media who keep shining a spotlight on him” who are also to blame, it argued.

However, West has rejected criticism, telling Fox News that his critics are a “group mob” of “liberal Nazis that will go up and attack you”.

He also claimed that he had been warned that “anybody wearing a ‘white lives matter’ shirt is going to be green-lit”, meaning “they are going to beat them up if I wear it”.

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