Kanye West received social media backlash after he wore a shirt printed with “White Lives Matter” during Yeezy’s surprise Paris show. “Everyone knows that Black Lives Matter was a scam. Now its over. You’re welcome,” the musician wrote on an expired Instagram story. On Twitter, Candace Owens shared a photo of her and West wearing the same shirt in different colors.
White supremacist organizations have appropriated the phrase as a “counter-argument” to “Black Lives Matter,” a slogan used to denounce racial injustice, discrimination, and police brutality. The Anti-Defamation League which maintains an extensive list of hate symbols has even labeled “White Lives Matter” as a hate slogan.
According to the league, the phrase is a racist retort which was coined in early 2015 and has gained significant notoriety after several white supremacists groups, including the Texas-based Aryan Renaissance Society, promoted the slogan through fliers and demonstrations in a “loose campaign to popularize the phrase.” “By 2016, other white supremacist groups, including Ku Klux Klan groups, were also using the slogan, and it soon became a staple among white supremacist mantras, continuing even after the original campaigners ceased their activities,” the Anti-Defamation League says.
Fellow rapper Torrence “Boosie” Ivy Hatch wrote a strongly worded message on Twitter:
Retired NBA player Etan Thomas replied to Owen’s photo of her Kanye wearing the shirts, explaining the need for a “Black Lives Matter” slogan:
West showcased his ninth season for his fashion brand after sending out invitations a day before the show and asking invitees to not share the location of the event, according to the New York Times. He delivered a speech at the show where he wore the oversized shirt with Pope John Paul II’s face and the words “Seguiremos tu ejemplo” (“We will follow your example”) printed on the front, and the offending phrase “White Lives Matter” at the back.
Back in 2018, West also received backlash after saying: “When you hear about slavery for 400 years … for 400 years? That sounds like a choice” in a TMZ interview.