Rap mogul Kanye West and conservative commentator Candace Owens twinned at Paris Fashion Week in long sleeved t-shirts that said “White Lives Matter.”
The shirts featured an image of Pope John Paul II on the front, along with the Spanish phrase “Seguiremos Tu Ejemplo,” which translates to “We Will Follow Your Example.” The back of the shirts included the controversial text, “All Lives Matter,” in capital letters.
The fashion designer opened his Yeezy Season 9 runway show in Paris on Monday with a rambling speech that referenced ex-wife Kim Kardashian’s 2016 Paris robbery, the end of his brand’s collaboration with Gap, and his own mental health issues.
“It’s the ultimate stigma,” he told the audience. “People feel like they have the right to come to my face and call me crazy. Like it doesn’t hurt my feelings. Or like, you don’t have to be crazy in order to change the world.”
“You can’t manage me. This is an unmanageable situation,” West continued. “You can’t turn the music lower, this is a God’s dream, a dream that can’t happen without the help of God. The journey.”
Social media exploded over the message that West and Owens displayed on their backs, which was classified as a “white supremacist phrase” by the Anti-Defamation League, after it spawned as a response the the Black Lives Matter movement in 2015.
Writer Jemele Hill posted that West’s message was “dangerously dumb” and shouldn’t be excused as a marketing stunt.
“So many folks are trying to excuse Kanye wearing a white lives matter t-shirt as just a troll move or marketing,” he posted. “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.”
“Jay-Z got Kanye off that red hat only for him to progress to wearing a White Lives Matter t-shirt,” he noted in a follow-up post.
Fellow writer Meecham Meriweather added at that this isn’t the first time West has gone against the Black community.
“Every three months Kanye SHOWS y’all and TELLS y’all he doesn’t care about the black community and yet and still y’all be right there at Sunday Service buying every GI Joe boot and every piece of raggedy fabric he drops,” he wrote.
“Kanye West decision to wear a “White Lives Matter” shirt is disgusting, dangerous, and irresponsible. Some of y’all will rush to defend him. You should ask yourselves why,” Temple University professor Marc Lamont Hill added.
Daily Beast columnist Wajahat Ali said the shirt was a “billboard for white nationalists,” and called West “a fool.”
One person pointed out that West’s mental health struggles don’t excuse the sentiment of the shirts. “Being anti-black is not a mental illness or a symptom of bipolar disorder,” they wrote. “Stop saying that to excuse Kanye behavior. He knows what he is doing.”
“I’m so tired of people twisting themselves in knots to make excuses for Kanye,” another added.
Celebrities and fellow rappers were disgusted by West’s display. Will Smith’s son, Jayden Smith, who indicated that he was in attendance at the show, seemingly walked out after seeing the shirt.
“I Had To Dip Lol,” he wrote on Twitter. “I Don’t Care Who’s It Is If I Don’t Feel The Message I’m Out,” he added in a follow-up post.
“12 Monkeys” star Kirk Acevedo said that West should “read some f–king books,” in response to the rapper admitting to Rolling Stone that he hasn’t “read any book,” and that reading is “like eating Brussels sprouts” for him.
“White lives have always mattered, from before the United States was founded as a country & before the discovery of the Americas,” he wrote. “Black & Brown lives during all that time have never mattered but were instead raped, enslaved & killed off.”
Rapper Boosie BadAzz slammed West directly on Instagram. “After all we been through as a race you put this disrespectful s–t on,” he posted.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Kanye dressed as Jeffrey Dahmer for Halloween,” rapper Lil Duval commented.
“I’m proud to say I’ve never purchased a Kanye West product, album, or single,” said songwriter Mike Baggz. “Stop making excuses for his disrespect, he hides behind his mental issues and uses it to justify being a political pawn.”
A podcaster speculated that Owens was playing West and he fell for it. “I wonder if Candace ever pinches herself about how lucky she is that Kanye keeps falling for her political games,” they said.
A small minority were actually in support of the Yeezy CEO’s messaging. “Kanye West is right, white lives matter too,” wrote ACT for America founder Brigitte Gabriel.
“Kanye made a “White Lives Matter” shirt and people are TRIGGERED,” Podcaster Graham Allen chimed in. “Guess what???? ALL. LIVES. MATTER.”
“Kanye is right. White Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. All Lives Matter. And UNBORN LIVES matter,” added failed politician Lavern Spicer.
Their posts were mostly met with disdain and memes mocking their responses.