At his Paris fashion show on Monday, Kanye “Ye” West wore a shirt with the phrase “White Lives Matter” on the back. Alongside him was conservative commentator Candace Owens, who wore the same shirt in white.
The rapper, who officially changed his name to Ye earlier this year, wore the shirt at a fashion show for his YZY brand. According to Complex, models also wore the “White Lives Matter” shirts during the show.
The phrase “White Lives Matter” emerged as “a racist response to the Black Lives Matter movement” in 2015, and has been adopted and promoted by white supremacist groups and sympathizers, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
West and Owens not only showed support for White Lives Matter, but they were also critical of the Black Lives Matter movement. After Monday’s fashion show, Owens posted photos of her outfit on her Instagram story. One post appeared to be a screenshot of a story from West’s account, which read: “Everyone know that Black Lives Matter was a scam now it’s over you’re welcome.” The story is no longer on West’s account.
Black Lives Matter gained national attention after the 2014 death of Michael Brown, a Black teenager who was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. It grew to a global scale andafter the 2020 killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
The Black Lives Matter movement is meant to “dismantle a system that was designed to criminalize Black people, that was designed to criminalize poor people and people of color and other oppressed people,” one of its founders, Alicia Garza,
Many activists condemned West’s shirt and comments. Marc Lamont Hill, an activist, author and professor, tweeted that West’s “decision to wear a ‘White Lives Matter’ shirt is disgusting, dangerous, and irresponsible.”
Professor and political commentator Wendy Osefo said what West is doing “is not only intellectually dishonest it’s irresponsible and borderline dangerous.”
Journalist Jemele Hill said while the shirt may be “a troll move or marketing,” it is a “dangerously dumb message to send for someone with his massive platform.”
Hannah Gais, senior research analyst at Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, said in a statement to CBS News both West and Owens “have a proclivity for high-profile stunts designed to troll liberals.” and that their “use of rhetoric popular among some on the racist fringe goes to show that these slogans can become normalized and part of the broader right-wing vernacular through repetition.”
Although some of West’s past songs shed light on racism and the mistreatment of Black people, he has come under fire for some of his statements in recent years. During awith TMZ, West said slavery wasn’t real. He also for meeting with then-President Donald Trump several times and wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat.