Earlier this month, Kanye West came under fire for saying that President Obama was enduring difficulties in his presidency because blacks “don’t have the same level of connections as Jewish people.” (An underreported addendum was that oil men are also similarly connected.) The ADL fired back calling the remarks “classic anti-Semitism.” (For more, read today’s stellar interview of ADL Chief Abe Foxman by David Samuels.)
Weeks after the controversy seemed to subside, it’s back in the news again. Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan jumped into the mix earlier this week to defend Kanye, saying this about his remarks:
“Now the ADL has jumped on Kanye West, because he said; ‘Black people don’t have the same level of connections as Jewish people. Black people don’t have the same connection as oil people.’ Did he lie? No, he told the truth.”
Farrakhan is not exactly who you want in your corner on this topic. To complete the circle, Kanye has now responded to the criticism, calling it “an ignorant compliment.” And in doing so, he’s reminded many of us of why we fell in love with Kanye in the first place:
“I don’t know how being told that you have money is like an insult,” Kanye said. “That would be like if somebody complimented black guys and said, ‘All black guys have big penises.’ You don’t want to be the black guy who raises his hand and says like, ‘That’s not true. I have proof!’”
So while it is difficult to argue with that particular line of logic, I am going to hazard a try. Making a broad statement about a group of people, whether it seems nice or not, is still a mistake. I am sure that plenty of Jews would confess that access, money, or power did not arrive in an envelope after being called to the Torah. (Right? Cause if not…I’m still accepting envelopes.)
Decide for yourself, but I have to say, I still don’t believe that this comment warranted a condemnation from the Anti-Defamation League. First of all, the back-and-forth made this episode into a bigger deal than it should have been. Beefs and feuds are good for record sales, but not necessarily good for quashing stereotypes. Even as Kanye explains himself, we see that the logic behind his remarks, while misguided, was not particularly malevolent in intent.
Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.