‘White lives matter’ is a right-wing, nationalist phrase that originated in early 2015 as a racist response to the Black Lives Matter movement. It followed the creation of ‘All Lives Matter,’ a white supremacist slogan which arose in 2014, which affirms that all lives are equal because we’re all humans. By 2016 other white supremacist groups, including the KKK, were also using the slogan, & it soon became a staple among white supremacist mantras, continuing even after the original campaigners ceased their activities.
It’s an overall very harmful slogan, and the reason I’m writing about it is because of the recent public display of attention the movement has garnered in light of Ye West, formerly known as Kanye, at his impromptu fashion show during Milan Fashion Week, specifically on October 3rd. If you aren’t familiar with who Ye is, he’s a Grammy-award-winning American rapper, songwriter, record producer, and fashion designer. He’s been an iconic face of Black music for the past decade, which is why his choice to unapologetically display ‘white lives matter’ on such a grand scale is extremely hurtful to not just his fans, but to the reputation of Black rappers & their culture as a whole.
In a troublesome interview with Tucker Carlson that aired on October 6th, West shares, “The answer to why I wrote ‘White Lives Matter’ on a shirt is because they do.” The statement is completely insensitive, and the fact is that we don’t need a reminder of the worth of white lives since America is a shrine to the worth of white people. That message that West chose to slap on every piece of clothing at his fashion show is a reactionary to a message affirming the worth of Black lives, which haven’t been worth anything in America. In its intent, it’s a white supremacist notion, because it posits that we can’t have a conversation about the worth of Black people without having a conversation about the worth of white people, which is insane. The notion that it always has to be about white people in America is emotionally exhausting & that’s what the problem is. Because West has been a continuously prominent figure in Black culture for upwards of a decade, it’s incredibly damaging & harmful that he is affirming the notion.
Since the debut of Ye’s harmful promotion of ‘white lives matter,’ many celebrities have publicly voiced their distaste for his actions, namely Jaden Smith, Ice Cube, & Lizzo. His actions have left a lasting impact on his fanbase & on the world’s perception of Ye as a person—but most importantly, this debacle has given an incredibly racist slogan a platform that by which is supporting the tokenization of Black people in right-wing media; a trend that’s been irrefutably detrimental to African American culture for decades.