Last week, Kanye West appeared on an interview show on New York’s 105.1 FM radio and, in between discussing his latest album and comparing himself to Walt Disney and denouncing racism, got to the topic of the difference between rappers and… Jewish people. About 12 minutes into the 42-minute interview (linked above), West says of the atmosphere at Roc-A-Fella that, “We ain’t Jewish. We don’t got family that got money like that. The rappers became the new family.” Later, around the 32-minute mark, discussing the dearth of black billionaires, he says that, “Black people don’t have the same level connections as Jewish people.”
Now, anti-Semitism watchdog the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has responded to his remarks, calling him out for “fueling [a] classic anti-Semitic stereotype.” Abraham H. Foxman’s, the groups’ national director, said in a statement:
There it goes again, the age-old canard that Jews are all-powerful and control the levers of power in government. As a celebrity with a wide following, Kanye West should know better. We hope that he will take responsibility for his words, understand why they are so offensive, and apologize to those he has offended.
So far, no such apology has been forthcoming.
This isn’t the first time that West has made use of the stereotype about the relationship between Judaism and money. As quoted in Touré’s book Never Drank the Kool-Aid, West once described Jay Z as his “Jewish father,” because “Jewish families show their sons how to make money.” He has also drawn criticism for comparing himself to Hitler (though in that last case he was referring to people looking at him like he’s as bad as Hitler, not to any similarity between his views and Naziism).
The ADL is no stranger to controversy itself, and has been accused of overreacting in other situations, but there’s no doubt that West’s remarks in this most recent radio interview do play into the anti-Semitic stereotype in question. Which is ironic, in the larger context of the interview: the whole point West was trying to make was, at its heart, about the way institutionalized prejudices affect artists working today.
But, if the rest of West’s radio interview was sincere, there’s some hope he might learn from being chastised by the ADL. “I want you to tell me everything that I’m doing wrong in front of everybody,” he says, “so that I can improve that.”