Today Ye, the artist formerly known as Kanye West, launched a surprise Yzy fashion show in Paris. The event was attended by celebrities like Beyoncé, Rihanna, Angelina Jolie, Lauryn Hill, Naomi Campbell, Emily Ratajkowski, Gisele Bündchen and Bella Hadid and featured a Sunday Service-style musical number that included a children’s choir (West’s daughter North West was among the singers).
But all that anybody can talk about is the controversial black sweatshirt Ye wore, which had a picture of the pope on the front and the words “White Lives Matter” on the back.
Online, there was immediate debate as to whether it was some kind of marketing stunt or just him trolling. And although Ye has a well-documented history of mental illness, he has also shown himself to, time and time again, promote extremely conservative values and ideologues, like him wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat and meeting with former president Donald Trump in an official endorsement.
Twitter quickly responded to his bizarre sartorial choice. In a since-deleted post, Jaden Smith denounced the move, saying that he can’t stand behind West’s choice and that “he does not have the full support of the youth.” The son of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith has left tweets up saying “Black Lives Matter” and “I Don’t Care Who’s It Is If I Don’t Feel The Message I’m Out.”
“Uphill” author Jemele Hill called the sweatshirt “dangerously dumb.” Writer Meecham Meriweather said, “Kanye SHOWS y’all and TELLS y’all he doesn’t care about the black community and yet and still y’all be right there at Sunday Service buying every GI Joe boot and every piece of raggedy fabric he drops.”
Many others pointed to an Instagram exchange between former professional basketball player Jack McClinton and producer and media personality Van Lathan, the latter of whom wrote eloquently of the “white supremacist notion” behind West’s sweatshirt slogan.
“We don’t need a reminder of the worth of white lives,” Lathan said. “America is a shrine to the worth of white people. This message is reactionary to a message affirming the worth of Black lives, which have never been worth anything in America. In its intent, it’s a white supremacist notion, because it posits that we can’t have a conversation about the worth of Black people without having a conversation about the worth of white people, which is fucking insane. The notion that it ALWAYS has to be about white people in America is incredibly frustrating, emotionally draining, and the whole problem. But here’s Kanye, apparently centering that notion.”
Temple University professor and BET host Marc Lamont Hill called the shirt “disgusting, dangerous and irresponsible.” And Rap TV pointed out that West and conservative pundit Candice Owens (who was famously against the Black Lives Matter movement) were wearing the same thing.
See those and more in our Twitter reactions roundup below.