Kanye West sparked outrage after wearing a shirt with the phrase “White Lives Matter” during his YZY SZN 9 fashion show at Paris Fashion Week on Monday.
The phrase is categorized by the Anti-Defamation League as a hate slogan. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, White Lives Matter is a neo-Nazi group that was created as “a racist response to the Black Lives Matter civil rights movement.”
Wanda Cooper-Jones, mother of the late Ahmaud Arbery, called out the rapper and fashion designer for helping to “legitimize extremist behavior” with the viral incident.
In February 2020, Arbery was murdered in a hate crime while jogging through the Satilla Shores neighborhood in Georgia after three white men chased him down and shot him.
In a statement to Rolling Stone, Cooper-Jones expressed his “extreme disappointment” in West’s behavioradding that the stunt made fun of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“As a result of his display ‘White Lives Matter’ began the trend in the United States that would support and legitimize extremist behavior, [much] just like the behavior that took the life of her son,” Cooper-Jones communicated through her attorney Lee Merritt. “This is the thing that Wanda and families like hers continue to fight against.”
The statement continued: “This mockery of the Black Lives Matter movement and his now condemnation of the movement as some sort of sham flies in the face [of what he’s said]. It’s confusing for her, it’s confusing for the families to receive his support privately but publicly set us all back.”
Amid the wave of backlash over the controversial shirt, West, who legally changed his name to Ye last year, posted and deleted a series of messages Tuesday morning to his Instagram addressing the criticism — including a post calling the BLM movement a “fraud”. “
“Everyone knows Black Lives Matter was a scam. Now it’s over. You’re welcome,” he wrote.
He further inflamed the criticism by posing for a photo next to the conservative commentator Candace Owens, who also wore the same shirt in white.
Some of the models on the catwalk for Ye’s show also wore shirts with the same message, The Guardian reported.
Ye had previously lent his support to Arbery’s family by covering their legal fees in the family’s quest for justice after the unarmed Black jogger was chased and killed by father and son Greg McMichael and Travis McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan.
In June 2020, Ye also donated $2 million to the families of Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd.