Business silence on Kanye West’s anti-Semitism is not an option


The writer is chief executive of Endeavor, an entertainment and media company

It’s not enough for Twitter to lock the rapper Kanye West out of his accounts following his anti-Semitic tweet that he was going to go “death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE.” West’s business partners across the fashion and entertainment industries also need to speak out and take action.

Apple and Spotify, which host West’s music, whoever organises West’s tours, and Adidas, which collaborates with West on his fashion line, should all stop working him. The parent company of Parler, the Twitter competitor, should refuse to sell to West.

Silence is dangerous. It allows forms of hatred and racism, including anti-Semitism, to spread and become normalised. It coarsens and degrades our society and country.

This wasn’t just one tweet. Shortly before his ugly return to Twitter, West was locked out of his Instagram account for an anti-Semitic post. And now Vice has obtained unaired footage from West’s interview with Tucker Carlson on Fox of West “making bigoted statements about Jewish people”.

We know that hatred is on the rise and is surfacing in troubling ways — from public figures of all kinds. In just the past few weeks, both LA City Council member Nury Martinez and Alabama Senator and former college football coach Tommy Tuberville were exposed for their deeply offensive, racist remarks.

West is not just any person — he is a pop culture icon with millions of fans around the world. And among them are young people whose views are still being formed.

This is why it is necessary for all of us to speak out. Hatred and anti-Semitism should have no place in our society, no matter how much money is at stake. According to the Anti-Defamation League, anti-Semitic incidents in the US were up 34 per cent in 2021 over the previous year.

Some of West’s behaviour has been dismissed over time, citing mental illness, given that he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after being hospitalised in 2016. However, mental illness is not an excuse for racism, hatred or anti-Semitism. Millions of people affected by mental illness do not perpetuate hateful ideologies. Others brush his comments off as just words, but hateful words far too easily become hateful actions.

In 2006, Mel Gibson made an anti-Semitic rant after being pulled over for driving while drunk in Malibu, California. I immediately called on the entertainment industry to refuse to continue working with Gibson.

Yes, several years later, I recommended him for roles. But that was only after Gibson’s public apology and his commitment to understanding the consequences of his actions.

He put in the work. “There is no excuse, nor should there be any tolerance, for anyone who thinks or expresses any kind of anti-Semitic remark,” Gibson said.

I agree. It was true then and it’s true now. We are all capable of learning and evolving, and if West would like to be educated about the history and consequences of anti-Semitism and the conspiracy theories he’s parroting, if he wants to reach out to religious leaders — including rabbis, Muslim leaders, Christian leaders — I’d be happy to help.

But until that happens, the leaders he’s doing business with need to speak up. Our clients LeBron James and Maverick Carter just cancelled an episode of James’s YouTube talk show The Shop: Uninterrupted after West continued to repeat dangerous stereotype during filming. “Hate speech should never have an audience,” said Carter.

Those who continue to do business with West are giving his misguided hate an audience. There should be no tolerance anywhere for West’s anti-Semitism. This is a moment in history where the stakes are high and being open about our values, and living them, is essential. Silence and inaction are not an option.

 



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