The Black Lives Matter organization called out Kanye West for wearing a sweatshirt that had the phrase “White Lives Matter” printed on the back during a fashion show in Paris on Monday, October 3. In a lengthy thread, the non-profit explained exactly why the “Runaway” rapper’s use of the phrase was problematic on Wednesday, October 5. “The repercussions are dangerous, destructive, and irresponsible,” they wrote.
Kanye debuted the “White Lives Matter” sweatshirt at a surprise Yeezy show as part of Paris Fashion Week. He posed alongside conservative commentator Candace Owens for photos, and also had models wearing designs that had the phrase printed on them. Since the controversial stunt, he’s faced much backlash for using the phrase, but he’s doubled down, saying that Black Lives Matter was a “scam” on his social media.
In their response, Black Lives Matter explained why the movement, which fights to “dismantle this system that causes institutional harm,” is much more important than simply the phrase, citing white supremacists and police brutality. “There’s never an appropriate time to attack Black people, Black Lives Matter means more than words printed on a T-shirt,” they wrote. “It’s a rallying cry across the Diaspora for injustices in our communities and a reminder that across the country Black people continue to be murdered, mistreated, beaten, and broken down by a deeply rooted white supremacist agenda.”
After reiterating the movement’s efforts, the organization called out Kanye and the sweatshirt specifically. “Twisting and convoluting this pillar by changing it to ‘White Lives Matter,’ disregards our ancestors and the freedom fighters before us. The repercussions are dangerous, destructive, and irresponsible. Based on this decision, it is clear that Kanye lacks vision from his vantage point,” they tweeted. “Kanye is playing into very harmful territory not only for himself but for all of us.”
The organization explained how they felt that Kanye lacked vision. “Not only is he forgetting the marginalization of our people who on a day-to-day basis cannot check in and check out of the reality of experiences deeply rooted in racism, but his entitled actions are also charged with an absence to those who have had their lives stolen due to the very same system he is championing,” they wrote. Despite calling out Kanye’s stunt, Black Lives Matter also said that they didn’t want to turn their back on Kanye, but rather “educate and reinstall the momentum” following the incident.
Black Lives Matter hasn’t been the only group to call out the My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy rapper. Jaden Smith appeared to reference the fashion show in a pair of tweets, where he said he walked out. “I don’t care who’s it is. If I don’t feel the message, I’m out,” he wrote. Gigi Hadid also commented on one of Kanye’s posts, after he called out Vogue fashion editor Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, and she called him “a bully and a joke.”