Kanye’s ‘White Lives Matter’ Shirt Brings Obligatory Backlash

West and friends—including right wing featured player Candace Owens—posed in the attention-grabbing garb at the Yeezy fashion show in Paris

Whether Kanye West just wants to generate publicity or whether he truly supports the messages he conveys, one thing is for certain: his antics get noticed. From famously saying “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people” on national TV to saying slavery was a “choice,” the hip-hop mogul, if he is to be believed—let alone taken seriously—has clearly experienced a shift in ideologies.

During a runway presentation of Yeezy Season 9—a show quickly slotted into the Paris Fashion Week lineup—West posed alongside conservative agitator Candane Owens, both wearing “White Lives Matter” shirts that his models also wore. Now, once more, he’s getting blasted for his recent behavior and what his critics claim are the impacts of his actions.

Black Lives Matter, not surprisingly, was among the first to take the bait, releasing a scathing statement to TMZ on Tuesday.

“While some may see Kanye and Candace’s stunt as a distraction, we recognize that it harms thousands of families fighting for justice for their loved ones killed by state-sanctioned violence. It can spread toxic confusion and be used to legitimize violent assaults on Black people. Battling misinformation while continuing to do the hard [work] that liberation requires is nothing new for us,” the organization wrote.

“Kanye West and Candace Owens sent a performative dog whistle to millions,” the organization continued, adding, “Kanye knows very well that ‘white lives’ have never been targeted for oppression. Black folks, in contrast, are at the bottom of virtually every economic, social and political measure because of centuries of individual and institutional racism,” it continued.

After the fashion show, West further chummed the media waters, posting an Instagram story that read “EVERYONE KNOWS THAT BLACK LIVES MATTER WAS A SCAM NOW ITS OVER YOU’RE WELCOME.” He then continued to mock Vogue fashion editor Gabriella Karefa-Johnson for speaking out against his attire in multiple now-deleted Instagram posts.

Gigi Hadid and Jaden Smith also shared with the world their hot takes:

“You wish [you] had a percentage of her intellect. You have no idea haha…. If there’s actually a point to any of your sh– she might be the only person that could save [you],” Hadid said under one of West’s deleted posts attacking Karefa-Johnson. “As if the ‘honor’ of being invited to your show should keep someone from giving their opinion ..? You’re a bully and a joke.”

Smith took to Twitter, writing “Black Lives Matter” and “True Leaders Lead” in a clear statement towards West’s fashion show antics.

One reaction West might not shrug off or mock quite so easily came from the family of Ahmaud Arbery, who told Rolling Stone that West championing the “White Lives Matter” slogan and calling BLM a “scam” flew “directly in the face” of what he had expressed to them previously. West was quick to support Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, and her family after the 25-year-old was murdered by three white neighbors while going for a jog in Georgia in 2020.

“As a result of his display ‘White Lives Matter’ started trending in the U.S., which would direct support and legitimize extremist behavior, [much] like the behavior that took the life of her son,” Cooper-Jones said in a statement through her attorney. “That is the thing that Wanda and families like hers continue to fight against.”

The statement continues, “This mockery of the Black Lives Matter movement and his now denunciation of the movement as some sort of hoax flies directly 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 to set us all back.”

In June 2020, West donated $2 million to the families of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor—all murdered by white men, two by police officers.

Stay on top of the latest in L.A. food and culture. Sign up for our newsletters today.