The backlash against Kanye West for weaving “White Lives Matter” shirts into his recent YZY SZN 9 Paris Fashion Week show continued on Wednesday (Oct. 5) when the family of Ahmaud Arbery called the artist now known as Ye out for what they described as a hurtful, duplicitous publicity stunt.
“As a result of his display ‘White Lives Matter’ started trending in the U.S., which would direct support and legitimize extremist behavior, [much] like the behavior that took the life of her son,” said Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, in a statement to Rolling Stone through her attorney Lee Merritt. “That is the thing that Wanda and families like hers continue to fight against.”
Arbery, 25, was killed in February 2020 when he went for a jog in Georgia and was chased down by three white neighbors and shot. Arbery’s family said the shirt was especially offensive because Ye privately supported the family after Arbery’s murder in the racially motivated attack.
“This mockery of the Black Lives Matter movement and his now denunciation of the movement as some sort of hoax flies directly in the face [of what he’s said],” the family’s statement continued. “It’s confusing for her, it’s confusing for the families to receive his support privately, but publicly to set us all back.”
Merritt told RS that in addition to West’s donation of $2 million to the families of George Floyd, Arbery and Breonna Taylor at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, West also also provided financial support to the family of Jemel Roberson, a Black security guard who was fatally shot by police in 2018.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the phrase “White Lives Matter” is a “racist response to the civil rights movement Black Lives Matter” that is the name of a neo-Nazi group that is “growing into a movement as more and more white supremacists groups take up its slogans and tactics.” Following the fashion show, Ye posted an Instagram Story in which he wrote, “EVERY ONE KONWS THAT BLACK LIVES MATTER WAS A SCAM NOW IT’S OVER YOU’RE WELCOME.”
West’s latest provocation came during a surprise Paris Fashion Week show on Monday evening (Oct. 3), which began trending online when he was seen wearing a long-sleeved shirt with “White Lives Matter” emblazoned on the back. In addition to Ye, some of the models in the show also wore the shirts, with Kanye later posing with conservative commentator Candace Owens, who wore a matching “White Lives Matter” top.
So far, West has not specifically explained the reasoning behind promoting the phrase, but the incident has drawn widespread disgust from a number of fellow artists decrying the sight of a Black man promoting the slogan of a racist group, even as West went on the attack against fashion editor and director Gabriella Karefa-Johnson — who was in attendance at Monday’s show — by posting since-deleted Instagram comments mocking her appearance.
Model Gigi Hadid also weighed in, coming to Karefa-Johnson’s defense while condemning Ye’s treatment of the editor, calling her “one of the most important voices in our industry… and could school that disgraceful man in more ways than he knows.”
Kanye said he held a two-hour meeting with Karefa-Johnson on Tuesday to discuss their difference of opinion, writing on Instagram, “GAB IS MY SISTER. IM NOT LETTING PEOPLE GO TO BED THINKING I DIDN’T MEET WITH GABRIELLE [sic],” while claiming that Vogue editor Anna Wintour got acclaimed Elvis director Baz Luhrmann to film the conversation.
And while he claimed to have settled things with Karefa-Johnson, West continued to lash out at Hadid, roping her into his ongoing disagreement with ex-wife Kim Kardashian over the co-parenting of the estranged couple’s four children. He also hit out at Hailey Bieber on Wednesday night after the model supported Karefa-Johnson in an IG Story, taunting those who would criticize him for what he called his “paradigm shifting t-shirt” while offering a misogynist taunt to Hailey’s husband, pop superstar Justin Bieber, that read: “And Justin get your girl before I get mad.”
The Black Lives Matter organization also blasted West, issuing a scathing statement on Tuesday that read, “While some may see Kanye and Candace’s stunt as a distraction, we recognize that it harms thousands of families fighting for justice for their loved ones killed by state-sanctioned violence. It can spread toxic confusion and be used to legitimize violent assaults on Black people. Battling misinformation while continuing to do the hard [work] that liberation requires is nothing new for us.”
Tripling down on his latest pot-stirring stunt, on Thursday morning (Oct. 6) West posted a partial quote from Breonna Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, in which she said in a since-deleted April 2021 Facebook post, “I have never personally dealt with BLM Louisville and personally have found them to be fraud,” in reference to groups raising money in the wake of her daughter’s killing by officers pursuing a no-knock warrant on the wrong apartment.