Kanye West has, once again, defended his choice of attire at this year’s Paris Fashion Week – a shirt emblazoned with the controversial slogan “White Lives Matter”, which has it roots in white supremacist movements – by sitting down for an interview with Fox News.
West’s latest political stunt began on Monday (October 3) during a launch event for his fashion brand Yeezy. During it, the rapper – as well as several models walking in the show, and conservative commentator Candace Owens – wore a shirt boasting the slogan “White Lives Matter”.
He’s since faced significant backlash for his use of the phrase – an appropriation of the Black Lives Matter slogan used to protest racial injustice, discrimination and police brutality – with the likes of Jaden Smith and Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs, plus figureheads for Supreme and Vogue, taking issue with the stunt. He responded by doubling down, writing in a post on Instagram that the Black Lives Matter movement was a “scam”.
In the days since, West has remained staunch on his viewpoint. His latest move of defence comes in an interview with Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson – who himself has long history with allegations of racism and the promotion of white nationalist rhetoric – wherein West admitted that he found the shirt, and his idea to wear it, to be funny.
Asked outright why he wore the shirt to begin with, West offered: “I do certain things from a feeling. I just channel the energy. It just feels right. It’s using a gut instinct, connection with God and just brilliance – like [disgraced Olympic figure skater] Tonya Harding, how she did the triple flip or the triple spin; she was in so much practise that when it was time for her to skate in a competitive format, it just happened…
“That’s what’s happening – it’s God preparing us for the real battles. And we are in a battle with the media, like, the majority of the media has a God-less agenda, and the jokes are not working – this whole, like, ‘Oh, Ye is crazy’ and all these things, they don’t work. Because the media has also watched travesties happen – just even specifically to me – and act like it wasn’t happening. And they stay quiet about it.”
West went on to explain that he wore the “White Lives Matter” shirt because he “thought the idea of me wearing it was funny”, noting that his father, an “an educated ex-Black Panther”, texted West with a message that showed he also found a comical side to the display. “And I said, ‘Dad, why did you think it was funny?’ He said, ‘Just a Black man stating the obvious.’”
Expounding on his father’s sentiment, West continued: “That was my favourite response, because I kept on thinking… You know, people are looking for an explanation, and people say, ‘Well as an artist, you don’t have to give an explanation, but as a leader, you do.’ So the answer to why I wrote ‘White Lives Matter’ on a shirt is because they do. That’s the obvious thing.”
Asked why such a phrase might be considered controversial, West took a moment to think before answering: “Because the same people that have stripped us of our identity, and labelled us as a colour, have told us what it means to be Black and the vernacular that we’re supposed to have.”
Have a look at the interview below:
Off the air, West has also responded to Diddy’s take on the stunt. In a series of now-deleted posts made on Instagram, West shared screenshots of texts he’d sent Diddy, inciting him to “come do something illegal to me”. Noting that the pair had spoken over the phone in the wake of West’s appearance at Paris Fashion Week, he wrote: “I didn’t like our convo. I’m selling these tees. Nobody gets in between me and my money.
“This is my grandfather texting you now. Never call me with no bullshit like that again unless you ready to green light me. ‘Cause anybody who got on that tee is me. Out of respect for everything you’ve meant to me I’Il be quiet
as Virgil. But now I know how I’ve hurt people I love with threats.”
Diddy appeared to respond with a proposal to meet with West in person – “As soon I land we’ll meet face to face,” he wrote, asking West to “send [him an] address” – to which the latter responded: “N**** FUUUUUCK YOU. YOU FED.”
A subsequent text sent to West asked the rapper to “stop playing these internet games”, which led him to respond with a show of anti-Semitism. “This ain’t a game,” West wrote. “I’ma use you as an example to show the Jewish people that told you to call me that no one can threaten or influence me. I told you this was war. Now gone get you some business.”
Diddy continued trying to appeal to West’s humanity, writing back: “I’m just trying to talk to you as a Black man. And I’m talking to you because this is hurting our people. Stop.” In his response, West told his colleague, “Anything you text I will post. I love you. And you guys are breaking my heart. I accept your apology in advance.”
One final post – which is still visible at the time of writing – appears to continue the conversation, however it’s unclear as Diddy’s contact info has been cropped from the screenshot (which was not the case with the prior four). It sees West write, “I appreciate you so much,” to which the responder replied: “All good bro I think a beautiful move would be to take some of the proceeds from the white lives matter shirts and give in a meaningful way to our people unlike the Black Lives Matter did.”
Meanwhile, Canadian singer-songwriter Esthero – who co-wrote West’s ‘808s & Heartbreak’ tracks ‘Love Lockdown’, ‘Street Lights’ and ‘Robocop’ – says she intends to donate her cut of publishing royalties for the tracks to Black Lives Matter in response to West’s actions.
Among those who joined West in wearing the “White Lives Matter” shirt was Selah Marley – the daughter of Lauryn Hill and granddaughter of Bob Marley – who today (October 6) responded to her own backlash. “You can not bully me, manipulate me, or coax me into silence,” she wrote in a post shared to her Instagram Story, asking fans to “wait ’til you hear what [she has] to say”.
In addition to some of his colleagues, West’s critics have also included the family of Ahmaud Arbery, who was murdered in a racially motivated hate crime in 2020. Wanda Cooper-Jones, Arbery’s mother, came forward to express “extreme disappointment” with West’s actions. Black Lives Matter Grassroots, meanwhile, shared a statement saying the rapper had “sent a performative dog whistle to millions”.