OPINION: Fans of Kanye West should take action to protest his antisemetic rhetoric

After antisemetic tweets from artist Kanye West, Balenciaga and Adidas have dropped their affiliation with him. West’s actions push consumers to consider their support of his music. However, if people want to prove that actions have consequences, they must make clear their stance in long-term action.

In October, Kanye West referred to as “Ye”, shared an antisemetic tweet, stating he would go “death con 3 on Jewish people”. This followed his actions during Paris fashion week where he wore a “White Lives Matter” shirt. 

The words in this tweet were very hateful, including rhetoric that can spur on prejudice and harmful views. 

“His anti jewish words tap into age old anti jewish myths created to serve white supremacy,” Ethan Schatz, a junior at DePaul and member of the DePaul Hillel student organization, said. 

In light of the most recent comments made by West and the actions taken by brands formerly affiliated with him, consumers are faced with a decision. They have the choice to decide whether they want to contribute to the artist’s revenue or which alternative avenues to take to protest his recent actions.

What makes the consumer choice important to consider here is the amount of power that it plays in this situation. Consumer’s response to West’s actions have been the driving voice at play for brands to stop their affiliation and speak out against his actions. 

If no one cared, it might not have risen to [this] level because we’ve seen problematic people be associated with brands, and unless someone calls it out, the brand relationship continues,” Christina Steed, adjunct professor in the college of communications, said

Both Balenciaga and Adidas chose to end their contracts with the artist, with Balenciaga being the first company to terminate their contract with West. Adidas terminated payments to West and production of new Yeezy products. 

“In terms of corporate policy goes as a reversal, those are contracts that are written for years in the past and the future in terms of their ability to invest in their own business going forward,” Geoff Durso, assistant professor of marketing said. “So, in essence, what a lot of these businesses did, it seems, is that they made a decision that said ‘there’s a line that we have to draw somewhere.’”

The decision these companies made cost them considerable amounts of money in projected revenue. According to a statement released by Adidas, they expect a $258 million loss for the company for the rest of 2022. 

Both Durso and Steed commented that the actions taken by these brands were fairly swift. 

A conversation surrounding West’s actions is his bipolar disorder, which he has been open with. While it can mean the recents actions flag the fact that the artist needs help, it does not necessarily excuse them. 

“Hearing from people in the bipolar community, racism is not a byproduct of being bipolar,” Steed said. “So there’s that to consider, because I’m going to listen to people who have this condition and are saying [that] this is not consistent with what we know; to use that as a shield to say things that offend people.” 

One of the factors that could be affecting consumer response is the concept of ambivalence. 

“One of my special areas of interest is called ‘ambivalence’: when I both like and dislike the same exact thing or product or brand,” Durso said. “One of the classic cases of ambivalence interests me is when you like the art despite the artist.” 

People experiencing this ambivalence may feel conflicted, as they enjoy West’s music, but do not agree with his actions. Durso noted that people usually feel the need to resolve their ambivalence in one way or another. In this case, these choices can come down to continuing to listen to his music despite the fact that it can be a continual reminder of his actions, or choosing to stop listening to his music and supporting him financially. 

If consumers want actual monetary change to happen, it is important to work through this ambivalence and take concrete action. 

“You can resolve ambivalence by saying the things that he’s done, negatively speaking, outweigh any good that he can possibly be associated with,” Durso said. 

For Charlie Hartenstein, a sophomore at DePaul, a wake up call is needed in order to push West to step back. 

“So much of his persona is tied to the fact that he is famous and rich,” Hartenstein said. “Taking away his ability to have that be true, that is going to be the best way of making him realize, ‘I can’t keep getting away with doing everything that I want.’”

At this point, a strong action from people who used to listen to his music is the wake up call needed. They must make clear what they stand for and believe.