Adidas Finally Dropped Kanye West — But How Can You Be a True Jewish Ally?
I woke up to the news yesterday morning that I have been waiting to hear for ten days too long; Adidas is finally cutting its lucrative partnership with Kanye West — who now goes by Ye — after an onslaught of antisemitic comments made over the last two weeks. And while I am relieved that Adidas have done the right thing (albeit, after mounting pressure from the public), I am also left feeling tired, disheartened and apprehensive.
You see, Kanye’s words may have reached further than we have seen in recent times due to his status as a public figure, but his hateful sentiments have been felt by many for as long as the Jews have existed. This is a truth I am deeply aware of because as a visibly Jewish woman with a visibly Jewish husband and children; I am faced with it every day. For the general public, however, the assumption is that antisemitism started and ended with WWII, and Kanye’s recent ‘episode’ is merely a symptom of someone with severe mental illness.
Oh, how I wish it was that simple.
In case you missed it, the recent backlash against Ye all started at Paris Fashion Week, when he and Candace Owens, who are both Black, wore shirts bearing the phrase, ‘White Lives Matter’; a slogan coined by white supremacists as a direct response to the Black Lives Matter movement. The public response and uproar resulted in an interview with American right-wing personality, Tucker Carlson, where Ye segued from the aforementioned controversial shirts and moved into discussions of foreign policy, which soon snowballed into a long list of antisemitic comments. From Jared Kushner being the one behind the Abraham Accords (a peace deal between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain) for financial gain, to saying that he would rather his kids know more about the Jewish holiday of Chanukah than the African holiday of Kwanzaa because at least it would come with some ‘financial engineering’ — these antisemitic tropes about Jews and money are some of the oldest in history.
The following day, Ye’s Instagram account was suspended after he posted screenshots of more antisemitic chatter. So he took to Twitter to announce he was going “Death Con 3 on Jewish people”.
As if all of that wasn’t enough, Ye went on to do multiple interviews where he doubled down on his beliefs, using language like ‘Jewish banks’ and ‘Jewish media’ to explain that every bad deal he has had in his career has been at the hands of Jewish people. However, the most eerie and unsettling footage, was when Ye taunted his biggest business partner, Adidas, on the Drink Champs podcast saying, “I can say antisemitic things and Adidas can’t drop me. Now what? Now what?”
I know I am not alone when I say, that clip chilled me to my core.
A few days after that unsettling comment, an anti-Jewish group called the Goyim Defense League hung a banner over the 405 freeway in LA, saying “Kanye is right about the Jews… honk if you know” while throwing Nazi salutes to the traffic below. The saddest part of that day was hearing that there was a hell of a lot of cars beeping their horns.
Collectively, we sat and watched as Ye’s ties were cut with Balenciaga, GAP, his talent agency CAA and entertainment company MRC (who had just finished a documentary on Kanye and announced they would no longer be distributing it). Instagram tiles saying “I support my Jewish friends and the Jewish people” started to go viral, being posted by the likes of Khloe Kardashian, Hailey Bieber, Amy Schumer and Pharrell to name a few. Kanye’s ex-wife, Kim Kardashian even tweeted in solidarity, condemning the hate speech and demanding it come to an end. Through it all, we heard nothing from Adidas.
Ten whole days after Kanye’s shocking comment, on October 25, Adidas publicly announced that it had severed its partnership with West, citing that they do not tolerate antisemitism or any other sort of hate speech. Baruch Hashem, “Thank God.”
So why did it take them so long? The Yeezy partnership with Adidas brings in an estimated eight percent of their total revenue and has made Kanye the ‘Richest Black man’ on Earth, throwing him into billionaire status. Now that he has been dropped from the brand, Forbes has estimated his net worth at $400 million. What a shame.
Unfortunately, none of this is new to us. The Goyim Defense League often hang Nazi-themed banners on overpasses in various places across the United States. Mail drops have been made plenty of times, calling for attacks on Jews and accusing major corporations or political parties of being run by Jews with an agenda. There have been Kosher supermarket shootings, Synagogues taken hostage, and countless amounts of physical attacks on visibly Jewish people in neighbourhoods with large Jewish communities.
Across the pond, when tensions were high in Israel and Gaza last year, Palestinian protesters took to the streets of London using a megaphone to encourage people to break into the homes of Jewish people to rape and murder their daughters and mothers. I wish I was making this up. You can find it all online.
I know what you’re thinking: this Kanye stuff is just an ‘overseas’ issue. And while you would be right in assuming that the threat is more real somewhere like the United States (the home of the second largest Jewish population in the world), the truth is, when your numbers are as small as ours (a mere 14.8 million in the entire world) it hits home no matter where it happens.
Sadly, we aren’t exempt here in Australia. Just last week a swastika was drawn outside of an Eastern Suburbs daycare. A couple of months ago students from Knox Grammar school in Sydney were suspended for being caught posting antisemitic commentary in group chats. Just last year, a Jewish student in Melbourne was forced to kiss the feet of another student because he was Jewish.
Over the years I’ve experienced casual micro-aggressions from friends pertaining to Jews and wealth. I have had non-Jewish guests in my own home tell me that “my people” run all of the banks. I have had editors in women’s media say to my face “aren’t all Jews just rich assholes?”…. the list goes on. And honestly, there are too many incidents to share. But the point is; it exists, it always has, and it is exhausting and alarming. The silence around it, even more so.
So what can you do to be a true ally?
Don’t Hesitate to Take a Stance
Well, you cant start by not being like Adidas. Support doesn’t look like a one-off Instagram tile either. There is no reason to hesitate when it comes to taking a stance against antisemitism, whether it is happening here, overseas, in your own circles or by the most famous person on the planet.
Educate and Re-Educate Yourself
You can start to learn and unlearn a lot of things. One of those things is that antisemitism didn’t start with the Holocaust and it absolutely did not end with it either. We have endured expulsions, slavery, mandates, job restrictions, genocides and more expulsions and it’s up to you to learn what came before WWII and what has come since. Watching a Hollywood blockbuster or reading a best selling novel about the Holocaust does not count as Holocaust education. I do not diminish those stories, as they are real and important, but they are not the whole picture.
Amplify Jewish Voices
The only people who can explain Jewish history and suffering and experience to you, are Jewish people. Don’t elevate the voices of people who jump on the train when it is trending. Fake allyship or conditional allyship is not sincere and to be honest, we don’t want it. It’s OK to support us without having to explain yourself to other people or other minority groups — generational trauma and suffering isn’t a contest.
Change Your Language
You can stop asking us, “why do people hate you so much?” or anything in that vein. While usually said with the intention of being empathetic or perhaps just being lost for words, the insinuation here is that there IS something wrong with us, and we need to somehow explain it to you so you can wrap your head around it. Racism and bigotry are never the fault of the one being attacked. It is not up to the victim to explain centuries long suffering to the ones who haven’t experienced it.
Learn About Jewish Culture
You can learn more about Jewish culture, and the more you do the more you will understand how we have come to be a small but mighty nation. We are an ethno-religious group, meaning we are a both race and a religion. We are White, Black, Asian, Latino, Middle-Eastern and so much more. We have a yearning to constantly learn and ask questions, whether philosophical or academic. We are required, by Jewish law, to give at least ten percent of our earnings to charity. Learn about our Shabbat days of rest, our high holidays and our Kabbalistic roots. All of these things, I believe, are why we are still here today.
Check In On Your Jewish Friends, Peers, Colleagues and Family
When things are tense for us, we are scared. Even the smallest acknowledgment can mean so much so long as it’s meaningful.
So where to from here? I am already apprehensive and starting to see the trolls defend Kanye, continuing his vile rhetoric and claiming that his ultimate cancellation was because Jews do in fact control the media. I know this isn’t over, not because of who was at the centre of it all this time, but because this has been happening for as long as the Jews have existed. Somehow by some miracle, we remain and we will continue to do so.
I pray it will be with strong allies by our side.