If we told you pre-2016 that Kanye West, who has shortened his name to Ye, would walk in Paris Fashion Week for Balenciaga, of which his ex-wife Kim Kardashian is an ambassador just weeks after ending his Gap x Balenciaga x YZY collab, you probably wouldn’t have believed us, nor would it have made much sense.
Now what if we told you that the next day, his surprise YZYSZN9 show would end with “White Lives Matter” trending on Twitter? We would probably open a hole in the space-time continuum. Unfortunately, the fallout of today’s YZYSZN9 fashion show is not a glitch in the matrix, but very much real.
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While opening the show with an impassioned speech, West donned a long-sleeve shirt with the Pope’s face on the front and “White Lives Matter” on the back. As if that wasn’t controversial enough, he also sported the bedazzled flip-flops that sparked outrage and enthusiasm online just a week prior.
Some models wore the “White Lives Matter” shirt down the runway, and West posed side-by-side with Black conservative influencer Candace Owens in contrasting “White Lives Matter” shirts.
Though only a handful of West's inner circle attended, the show was also live-streamed, opening it up to immediate internet discourse, pontification and general mess. The name “Kanye West” quickly became the number one trending phrase on Twitter, with “White Lives Matter” just three rungs behind (after National Boyfriend Day and Elon... we can unpack that later).
Even though the show started an hour late, some were quick to jump ship as soon as the “White Lives Matter” shirt made an appearance.
Others stuck it out.
While the shock value of the statement was high, some weren’t surprised by West's continued use of white supremacist sentiments, from sporting a "Make America Great Again" hat to his Trump endorsement.
\u201cKanye west making Black models wear \u201c white lives matter\u201d shirts is a culmination of his anti blackness and his immersion in white supremacy ideologies and methods. Disgusting\u201d— \ua9c1\u0f3a\u04c4\u025b\u025b\u0584 \u0236\u0280\u0268\u0262\u0262\u025b\u0280\u0268\u057c\u0262 \u0280\u01df\u0188\u0268\u0586\u0236\u0586 \u028d\u025b\u0262\u0266\u01df\u057c\u0f3b\ua9c2 (@\ua9c1\u0f3a\u04c4\u025b\u025b\u0584 \u0236\u0280\u0268\u0262\u0262\u025b\u0280\u0268\u057c\u0262 \u0280\u01df\u0188\u0268\u0586\u0236\u0586 \u028d\u025b\u0262\u0266\u01df\u057c\u0f3b\ua9c2) 1664820644
\u201cKanye: *supports Trump* \n\nKanye stans: don\u2019t worry guys he\u2019s just trolling hard lmao \n\nKanye: *wears white lives matter shirt*\n\nKanye stans: lmao you guys fell for it, classic Kanye troll move \n\nKanye: *beats someone to death in a Wal Mart*\n\nKanye stans: omg guys he was trolling\u201d— autumn (@autumn) 1664817478
The Atlantic writer and cultural journalist Jemele Hill argued that even if the shirt was a supposed “media stunt,” its statement is irresponsible given West’s immeasurable influence and the loyalty of his fans.
\u201cSo many folks are trying to excuse Kanye wearing a white lives matter t-shirt as just a troll move or marketing. Maybe it is. But it\u2019s a dangerously dumb message to send for someone with his massive platform. I been off dude. But y\u2019all go ahead labeling his foolishness as genius.\u201d— Jemele Hill (@Jemele Hill) 1664822476
Self-proclaimed “theocratic fascist” and What is A Woman documentary-maker Matt Walsh contested Hill, arguing that she “despise[s] white people” for criticizing West.
\u201cYou truly don\u2019t have the range for this. The REASON we don\u2019t have to say white lives matter is because white lives have never NOT mattered. The default position in this country is white = worthiness. The same has never been true for Black people. You\u2019re welcome.\u201d— Jemele Hill (@Jemele Hill) 1664825169
Building off the legacy of his 2018 claim that slavery was a choice, YZYSZN9 adds another layer to the ongoing discourse of West's racial theory. Though we may never fully decipher it, this will doubtfully be the last we, or the internet, hear of it.
Maybe we should follow Jaden Smith’s lead and take a moment to assess what really matters.
Photo courtesy of Jojo Korsh/BFA