Not Even Fashion Can Save Ye Now

In this op-ed, writer Shelton Boyd-Griffith examines how Kanye West‘s recent behavior has affected his influence in fashion and beyond.

In this op-ed, writer Shelton Boyd-Griffith examines how Kanye West’s recent behavior has affected his influence in fashion and beyond.

How did we go from this, “We shine because they hate us, floss ’cause they degrade us/ We tryna buy back our 40 acres.”

And this, “I say f— the police, that’s how I treat ’em/ We buy our way out of jail, but we can’t buy freedom.”


And then this: [questioning the cause of George Floyd’s death] “They hit him the with fentanyl. If you look, the guy’s knee wasn’t even on his neck like that.”

It’s the tale of Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, from a radical artist of the people to a mouthpiece of anti-Blackness.

When I originally started this essay, the thesis centered around Ye and his recent problematic antics within the fashion industry. I wrote that if we’re being honest, Ye feels safe and at home in fashion because, systematically, fashion has always been a safe space for anti-Blackness, misogyny, fatphobia, and all-around bigotry. More often than not, the industry has bought into the same tropes and ideologies he believes in. Brand and corporate accountability has become especially important in recent years, a welcome sign of progress – particularly after the 2020 racial justice protests – though it doesn’t always last. In my view, the success of the demand for accountability has been hit or miss.

Things may be finally taking a turn, as storied fashion house Balenciaga has said they are severing all ties with Ye, as reported in WWD on Friday. In response to a query from WWD, the parent company Kering said, “Balenciaga has no longer any relationship nor any plans for future projects related to this artist.

Of course — while this is big — Ye’s antics have ballooned beyond the fashion industry recently and, well, I have some thoughts about that, too.

As for those shirts from Paris Fashion Week: this kind of anti-Black trolling is relatively standard for Ye. He is addicted to attention, and the folx of the internet and the fashion industry, in particular, kept fueling him up to that point. I personally believe he’s so incredibly focused on distancing himself from the notion of average Blackness that it does not matter with whom (45) or what (white supremacy) he associates himself with. He loves to exist within the “other” space. Somehow he’s convinced himself that he’s not like the rest of us [Black people] because he is supposedly somehow “enlightened.”

It’s apparent that Ye feels safe in right-wing adjacent spaces, which is why it was unsurprising when he appeared on Fox’s Tucker Carlson’s Tonight, a platform known for its controversial takes on matters around race and misogynistic rhetoric. Ye likely felt comfortable that Carlson and his fanbase would provide a haven for him to spiral out, spewing his harmful ideologies and soundbites. “We’ve rarely heard a man speak so honestly and so movingly about what he believes,” Carlson said as an introduction to the interview (?—if you can call it that). It’s likely that a viewer would see Ye’s appearance on the show as a greenlight for the anti-Blackness Carlson regularly churns out.

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