Kanye’s apology to Jewish people is pathetic
OPINION: It's too little, it's too late, and it doesn't take into account the real-world harm he's caused.
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
It must be impossible to be a Kanye fan at this point. It’s just endlessly embarrassing. Your guy is a terrible person — remember the Alex Jones interview or “slavery was a choice” or the entire antisemitism press tour?
He’s also mired in the longest cold stretch of his career — he’s dropped three consecutive wack albums and it looks like “Vultures” is about to be his fourth. And the things he said over and over about Jewish people and Hitler had an impact. Neo-Nazis popularized the slogan “Kanye is right” or “Ye is right.” The Anti-Defamation League reported that there was a rise in antisemitic hate crimes after his comments. The ADL found at least 25 antisemitic incidents that specifically named Kanye. Can you imagine being a pop star and knowing that your words are leading to actual neo-Nazis and other right-wing maniacs attacking Jewish people, and for years, you say nothing?
Recently, Kanye apologized on Instagram and it’s so pathetic.
He apologized on his page in Hebrew (why?) the day after Christmas. This is a time of the year that people in the media would consider a dead period. As in, it’s a time you’d place a story if you wanted it to die. Kanye released an apology at a time when it would be most likely to recede quickly into the background.
His apology also doesn’t show or reference any work he’s done to get to a place of apologizing. Kanye said a lot of gross things about Jewish people. (Yes, he also said a lot of horrible things about Black people, and yes, he owes us an apology for many things but that’s a different conversation. Right now, I’m talking about his little nonpology to Jewish people. No, I did not make up the word nonpology, and you knew what it meant as soon as you saw it.)
For a Kanye apology to feel genuine after so many offensive comments, I would want him to say he’s experienced some things and listened to some smart people and read something critical and really confronted why he told Alex Jones “I do love Hitler.” That would indicate he has done the work to reach a mental place where he has realized he was wrong and constructed a new mindset.
A real apology in a situation like this would include a significant monetary donation to an important antisemitic organization. It might include a direct attack on the neo-Nazis who used “Kanye is right” as a slogan. It should explain how he finally came to learn that Hitler was, in fact, a horrible person. Because at this point, we can’t be sure what he thinks.
A real apology would not gaslight us by referring to his many comments as “unintentional outbursts.” They were nothing of the sort. A real apology would not say he did not intend to offend when he was clearly intending to offend and trigger people. Kanye was using his weirdo fascination with Hitler to troll us. The motto was clearly “anything to get attention” and that included palling around with Trump, attempting to run for president and admiring Hitler, which, now that I put all of those things together in a sentence, I realize they must somehow all be linked in Kanye’s mind. But how?
Please spare me with the “but he’s mentally ill” canard. Being bipolar doesn’t make you antisemitic or racist. He is responsible for his behavior.
Also, many of his antisemitic comments were made in 2022. Apologizing a year later with a Christmas week statement? It’s too little, too late. There’s a window of time in which an apology can work to soothe a wronged person. But if too much time goes by, the potential impact of an apology can fade because you’ve let the hurt live too long.
Kanye spent years crafting and curating a public image and thus creating a brand that meant so much to so many people. A big part of Kanye’s brand was being a free thinker — he didn’t think like other rappers and it made him compelling. But somehow being a free thinker and challenging George Bush or Taylor Swift became being a free thinker and embracing Hitler and Trump. Kanye thinks slavery was a choice, but we’re not supposed to think that Kanye is responsible for Kanye’s choices? Kanye injected the stench of antisemitism into his personal brand so deeply that I now think the two are inextricable. Even with a pithy, shallow nonpology, people will still think of Kanye as antisemitic. I wonder how long it’ll be before he says something else that’s offensive.
Touré is a host and Creative Director at theGrio. He is the host of Masters of the Game on theGrioTV. He is also the host and creator of the docuseries podcast “Being Black: The ’80s” and the animated show “Star Stories with Toure” which you can find at TheGrio.com/starstories. He is also the host of the podcast “Toure Show” and the podcast docuseries “Who Was Prince?” He is the author of eight books including the Prince biography Nothing Compares 2 U and the ebook The Ivy League Counterfeiter.
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