On Monday, the rapper, 45, staged a surprise Yeezy fashion show during Paris Fashion Week. Before the live-streamed show began, West took to the stage in the long-sleeve black shirt, which also featured an image of the Pope on the front, to give a speech, according toPage Six.
“I am Ye, and everyone here knows that I am the leader,” he said at one point, according to the outlet, before adding: “You can’t manage me.”
The showcase of West’s season nine collection also saw models walk the runway in white versions of the “White Lives Matter” shirt. Controversial conservative commentator Candace Owens was also in attendance at the show, where she too wore a “White Lives Matter” t-shirt, per Complex.
On social media, West’s shirt has been met with mixed reactions, with many criticising the fashion designer for the outfit choice.
As noted by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), “White Lives Matter” is a “white supremacist phrase that originated in early 2015 as a racist response to the Black Lives Matter movement”. The phrase has also been used by supporters of former president Donald Trump.
“Kanye West, and his White Lives Matter shirt is not very surprising. He wore a MAGA hat, and supported [Trump]. In both instances, my position has been very clear. F** Kanye,” one person tweeted.
Another said: “I don’t know what is going on with him, but personally I’m sick of folks making excuses for him.”
“I’m so bored with this guy and his antics. It’s just one desperate stunt after the other,” someone else alleged.
Others claimed that the controversial fashion choice shouldn’t come as a shock considering the rapper’s past political leanings. Ye has been open about his support for the former president, who he referred to as his “brother” in 2018.
“You lot are shocked at Kanye wearing a ‘White Lives Matter’ shirt like the man didn’t support Trump…” one person tweeted.
Journalist Jemele Hill also weighed in on the controversy, alleging that West’s message was “dangerously dumb” even if he wore the shirt as a marketing tactic.
“So 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’s a dangerously dumb message to send for someone with his massive platform. I been off dude. But y’all go ahead labeling his foolishness as genius,” she wrote.
A photo of West and Owens posing together to showcase their matching shirts also prompted backlash, with many taking the opportunity to highlight the questionable comments the rapper has made regarding race in the past.
“The current day ‘black conservative’ grift is fascinating to me. You gotta shave off part of your humanity to be part of it because it’s no longer giving lip service to values; it’s 2012 YouTube prankster sh*t like this,” one person tweeted.
Others referenced West’s 2018 comments about slavery, which saw him describe slavery as a “choice”. “When you hear about slavery for 400 years…for 400 years? That sounds like a choice,” he said in an interview with TMZ Live.
After backlash over the comments, West attempted to clarify his meaning on Twitter, where he claimed that he was being “attacked for presenting new ideas”.
On Tuesday, the rapper appeared to address the controversy over his White Lives Matter shirt on his social media, where he wrote: “Everyone knows that Black Lives Matter was a scam. Now it’s over. You’re welcome.”