Opinion: Responding to Kanye’s perpetuation of antisemitism

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Solvej Lee/The Occidental

In early October, I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and saw that Ye West (formerly known as Kanye West) made some antisemitic remarks online. Around two weeks later, a video of Ye making more antisemitic claims on a podcast showed up on my TikTok discovery page. To see such a public figure, who many people my age follow, hatefully denounce my religion felt deeply offensive. What felt like another punch to my heart hit when I saw a photo on Instagram of a banner flying over an LA freeway that agreed with Ye’s hateful words. This was devastating since that overpass is 20 minutes from my childhood home.

My maternal grandparents came to mind, as both of them lived through the Holocaust. My grandfather escaped Austria during the rise of Nazism. At the same time, my grandmother and her family in Illinois would help European Jews resettle upon immigrating. Considering how much they all had to endure, it is unacceptable that my generation still faces antisemitism.

I have asked myself this past month, where are my allies? The lack of support from my non-Jewish peers in recent weeks is disappointing. Social media posts and conversations I have witnessed mainly come from Jews. My Jewish friends at Oxy have put so much energy into educating people on the dangers of antisemitism. Seeing Occidental Hillel take action by sending a campus-wide email and holding a space for Jews to talk made me very proud. Even coming across a sign on Instagram addressing antisemitism reassures me that Jews are not alone in the fight.

I watched a Casey Neistat video in which he admits that he rarely practiced Judaism, but that did not make him any less Jewish. To that point, Jews hold many differing experiences. Additionally, antisemitism precedes geopolitical conflict since it deals with the defamation of Judaism, a religion founded over 3,500 years ago. Therefore, regardless of political beliefs, all Jews are targets of antisemitism. This is when it becomes essential for people from all walks of life to step in and support us. The fight against antisemitism is an ongoing joint effort which means there is a constant need for allies.

As one of the world’s oldest forms of hatred, antisemitism should not only come up when celebrities like Ye demonstrate it. It is a topic that needs to always be in mind and talked about more frequently. To be most effective, I believe discussions about antisemitism should be preventative and educational. What I mean is these conversations, whether at school, online or in the workplace, should provide explicit examples of antisemitism. But in order to do so, I believe referring to the history of antisemitism is vital. Acknowledging the past is crucial to building a better future. Using contemporary and historical instances of antisemitism can help one detect and censure it.

Being an ally to Jews can take many forms. I believe it is most practical to first educate yourself on the prevalence of antisemitism. Instagram accounts such as @jewishoncampus and @stop_antisemitism have shown me that antisemitic behavior can occur anywhere. Undoubtedly, treating people of all backgrounds and lifestyles with kindness and respect is a core lesson in society. Therefore, acting on defying forms of hatred must occur not only on an individual level but a communal one too. This kind of hostility will continue if we do not come together and stand up to antisemitism. The consequences of this will ultimately impair the freedom of Jews. Having the liberty to be openly proud of your religion is dignifying and non-negotiable.

Contact Olivia Fishman at ofishman@oxy.edu.