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If you’ve been paying any attention to current events over the last few weeks, it’s likely you’ve heard a thing or two about Ye — formerly known as Kanye West —  and the horrific antisemitic comments that have led to his downfall. The star took to Instagram in early October and began spouting antisemitic conspiracy theories. He claimed that Jews control the media, value their financial gain over everything else and more. He also insisted that he could not be antisemitic because he is Black and a “true descendant” of the Jewish people — another harmful conspiracy theory that paints modern-day Jews as “imposters” for the “real” descendants of the Israelites.

His account was quickly suspended, but he ran to Twitter, tweeting that he was going to go “death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE.” This was the beginning of a very long, and still ongoing, fall down the antisemitic rabbit hole for West. In the coming weeks, he would not only defend these comments but reiterate them, along with similar antisemitic sentiments. 

Controversy has followed West throughout his entire career. Recently he has been in flirtation with far-right politics while going through a messy divorce, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. This particular social media fiasco has left his reputation more tarnished than ever. Several brands have suspended their deals with him, and his net worth has suffered, causing him to lose his former status as a billionaire. 

Many are celebrating this outcome. Celebrities, politicians and others with a large platform have jumped on the anti-Kanye train, condemning him for his blatant hate speech. As a Jewish person, I would be happy to never hear from Ye again. Those who have dashed to his defense — mostly loyal fans — claim that we are too quick to cancel West, or that we need to consider his mental health struggles in our criticisms of him (even though antisemitism is definitely not a symptom of bipolar disorder)  — but these individuals are in the minority. Thankfully, most have realized that West is not someone worth defending. 

Being Jewish, it is refreshing to see so many people condemning West’s behavior and showing their support. We definitely need it. Shortly after West tweeted his intentions to go “death con 3” on all Jews, an antisemitic hate group appeared on the overpass of a Los Angeles Highway, waving around a banner that said “Kanye is right about the Jews” and rendering a Nazi salute to passing vehicles. Unfortunately, this was not an isolated incident. There has been a significant increase in occurrences of public antisemitism since West’s comments exploded across social media, largely from already antisemitic individuals who are using West’s comments as a lens to further their own bigotry. Yet, even as I see my peers post about their support for Jews, I find myself asking a familiar question — where have these people been? What West is saying is not new. He’s relying on harmful tropes about Jews that have existed for millennia.

In a conversation with The Michigan Daily, Judaic Studies professor Jeffrey Veidlinger discussed some of the alarming antisemitic stereotypes that have stood the test of time. “The most prevalent trope of antisemitism is the myth that Jews have a disproportionate amount of power,” he said. They are imagined to have undue influence, and in more extreme versions, to even be controlling the world.” 

West’s claims that Jews control the media and the economy reside in this exact trope. These conspiracy theories have been spreading for centuries, and while their presence may not always be as obvious as West has made them, they remain a background hum in the lives of many Jewish people, acting as a constant reminder that we will never quite be able to escape the grasp of antisemitism. 

Rationally, it should not have taken Kanye West trending on Twitter for the internet to realize that Jews are in danger. Putting aside violent acts of antisemitism (though we have no shortage of those), the use of antisemitic dog whistles by our public leaders, celebrities and others has been a constant for years. Yet non-Jews are much more likely to allow it to fade into the background. 

The only thing Kanye did differently was put it plainly. Jamie Moshin, communications and media lecturer, told The Daily that West’s position is particularly unique in this aspect. “He is being incredibly vocal about it,” he said.” He’s not closeting it or cloaking it, he’s doing it at the top of his lungs, and every time he’s told to stop, he doubles down and says something even more inflammatory.” In other words, his language is so outright horrible that anyone who claims to have a sliver of respect for Jews has to condemn him. While it is encouraging to see non-Jews offering their support, it is also, to put it simply, the bare minimum. Condemning Kanye is easy. What is harder is learning to recognize and combat the antisemitism we encounter in our every day lives. 

The vast majority of people wouldn’t dare to render a Nazi salute. However, they will use coded, intentionally confusing language to convey their antisemitism. It is this kind of speech that is the easiest to make excuses for, particularly when it is a celebrity or politician that you agree with on other issues. Today, this is often seen through criticisms of the Zionist movement. Of course, criticizing Israel is not always inherently antisemitic. However, because this is such a contentious issue, positions on Israel have hardened and it has become nearly impossible to have a civil conversation about it without veering into offensive territory. It is then that criticisms of Israel can become rooted in antisemitism, largely because the Israel-Palestine conflict is such a complex issue and many do not know much about it. 

We must shine a light on this more subtle antisemitism, firstly by not allowing our anger toward West to fade. Following the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in 2018, activism against antisemitism increased drastically in the months afterwards. Unfortunately, many have lost that vigilance since. We must fight back against this and use our anger as a jumping-off point to show non-Jews that, while antisemitism is often made up of blatant acts of violence and hate speech, it is also manifest in subtle microaggressions that are collectively just as harmful. Only then can we begin to have a meaningful conversation about combatting antisemitism. 

Rebecca Smith is an Opinion Columnist & can be reached at