There's something I've been thinking about for months and am just getting a chance to put down into words: I'm so fucking bummed about this Kanye situation.
It's devastating on multiple levels. I've spent thousands of hours of my life listening to music he produced, rapped on, or both. The College Dropout changed my life. It made me feel better about being a college dropout. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is one of my all-time favorite albums. His last few projects haven't been great (you can miss me with the gospel, especially), but overall he changed music for the better and got me through some difficult times. He and I also struggle with some of the same mental health issues, so I, in the past, identified and sympathized with the way his illness played out on a global stage. He has said and done things over the years (the TMZ interview and his treatment of Kim after their divorce, to name a couple) that have caused me to step back from my love for him. But then Netflix put out a three-part documentary chronicling his rise from a hungry kid from Chicago to one of the most influential people in music, fashion, and pop culture, and I got back into it. I was back to listening regularly, and then he showed his true colors.
As I mentioned, he and I both have bipolar disorder. While you can't say that mental illness affects every person the same, I can say this: bipolar disorder doesn't make you hate Jewish people. Or any other type of people.
His actions over the past couple of months hit me hard. Both as a day one fan and a Jew.
I spent close to my whole life as an atheist. I was born into a Jewish family. Both of my parents are Jewish. But when I was five years old, I remember being at temple, listening to the rabbi talk about Moses parting the Red Sea, and thinking, "well, this sounds like complete bullshit." And that was the attitude I stuck with for the next 29 years. I was a hardcore atheist. I didn't believe in any god, afterlife, fate, or anything beyond "we're here by accident, we're born, we live, and we die."
Over the last 18 months or so, though, my views on the subject changed. I've mentioned before that I got into Ketamine last year, and I'm not going into much detail here on what that looked like, but the experiences changed me. The things I saw and felt did not exist in my brain because I spent my whole life doubting their existence.
I have identified as Jewish my whole life because it's the one religion where it's as much of a race as a religion. If I had lived in Germany in the 40s, the S.S. wouldn't have asked me if I believed in God before they threw me on a train to Auschwitz. In that way, I have always felt Jewish. So, when someone with tens of millions of followers starts regurgitating tropes of Jews controlling the media, or Kyrie Irving tweets links to movies that deny the Holocaust ever happened, it hits home. I lived in New York before New Orleans and in St. Louis before New York. There were a lot of Jews in both of those places. Non-Jews have a frame of reference when they hear shit like "I'M GOING DEATH CON 3 ON ALL JEWS". In the deep south, though, that's not the case. I know that many people in this part of the country don't know any Jewish people or have never met any Jewish people. And this is just how this shit starts. Someone influential starts telling the people that listen to them that Jews are a part of the problem, the reason why they're being silenced, or don't have money. Next thing you know, signs are hanging on a bridge in L.A. saying, "KANYE IS RIGHT ABOUT THE JEWS," and people are waking up to nazi propaganda in their mailbox in Beverly Hills.
This shit has to stop. If you know someone that casually says things like "I just got jewed out of some money," or "you're such a jew," or "Jews run Hollywood/banks/the world," call them the fuck out on it. And yeah, I know, there are a lot of Jews in Hollywood. And in law. And in medicine. It's because when we came to this country, there wasn't a lot we were allowed to do. Acting was considered too effeminate for "Good Christian men," so Jews stepped in and went from Vaudeville to running studios. When hospitals wouldn't hire Jews, we opened our own. And when elite law firms BANNED Jews, we started our own, usually with a non-Jewish partner's name on the door. (I found all this out recently by reading this article in Rolling Stone; you should read it.) And those traditions lived on, and generation followed generation in the same industries. Our involvement in the areas we have been associated with lording over is not a conspiracy; it's just what we did to survive when we got to this country and realized we were fucking good at.
Most people who say these things aren't hateful people; they're just ignorant and uneducated about it, and hearing one time that they should think before they say that shit could change their behavior. And then their kids don't hear that growing up, and then there's a ripple effect.
I celebrated Hanukkah this year for the first time as an adult. I bought a blue/white/gold-dreidel-with-star-of-david-disco-ball-wreath from my incredibly talented friend Samantha and fastened it to my door. I hung blue and white flashing lights outside. I lit a menorah in my window. My wife, Chera, raised Catholic, enthusiastically joined me in all of this, which I greatly appreciate. I did all of this proudly, but I would be lying if I said that when I did, I wasn't worried that I could be putting a target on my house in case a Charlottesville-style march came through New Orleans, or just some Kanye stans happened to see my house and decide to send a message.
Anti-semitism has no place in our society. I'd say I miss the old Kanye, but I read recently that it's been an open secret in the music industry that he has been praising Hitler for the past 20 years to anyone he worked with. So, fuck Kanye—old and new.
I hope you're doing well and that we can leave this nonsense in 2022.