Kanye West’s latest stunt of championing the slogan “White Lives Matter” and decrying Black Lives Matter as a “scam” has not only brought sharp rebukes from his music and fashion industry peers, but from the mother of Ahmaud Arbery, whom the rapper had privately supported after her son was murdered in a racially-motivated attack.
Wanda Cooper-Jones tells Rolling Stone in a statement that West’s actions “flies directly in the face” of what he had expressed to her family after her 25-year-old son was killed when he went for a jog in Georgia and three white neighbors chased him down and shot him in February 2020.
In a statement given through her attorney Lee Merritt, Cooper-Jones expressed her “extreme disappointment” in West for slapping the phrase “White Lives Matter” on clothing from his latest YZY collection and doubling down on his stance on Tuesday.
“As a result of his display ‘White Lives Matter’ started trending in the U.S., which would direct support and legitimize extremist behavior, [much] like the behavior that took the life of her son,” Cooper-Jones relayed through Merritt. “That is the thing that Wanda and families like hers continue to fight against.”
“This mockery of the Black Lives Matter movement and his now denunciation of the movement as some sort of hoax flies directly in the face [of what he’s said,]” the statement added. “It’s confusing for her, it’s confusing for the families to receive his support privately, but publicly to set us all back.”
At the height of worldwide Black Lives Matter protests that sparked in outrage over police brutality and the police killing of George Floyd, West’s team announced he had donated $2 million to the families of Floyd, Arbery and Breonna Taylor, as well as struggling Black-owned businesses in Chicago. (Ben Crump, who represents the Floyd and Taylor family, did not immediately respond to Rolling Stone’s request for comment.)
Merritt confirmed to Rolling Stone that West had given some financial support to Arbery’s family as well as the family of Jemel Roberson — a Black security guard who was fatally shot by a police officer in 2018 — but did not disclose the amount.
West is catching heat from all sides following his latest attention-seeking antics, which included inviting right-wing conservative pundit Candace Owens to his show and posing with her in matching “White Lives Matter” shirts. The stunt prompted Jaden Smith to walk out of the show, as well as Dazed fashion writer Lynette Nylander. (The phrase “White Lives Matter” was borne out of a “racist response to the Black Lives Matter movement,” according to the Anti-Defamation League and “promotes a white supremacist worldview, advocating for raising “white racial consciousness.”)
And rather accept valid criticism about how tone-deaf his messaging was, West lashed out at Vogue stylist and fashion editor Gabriella Karefa-Johnson on Instagram after she had diplomatically expressed her thoughts, saying while West had tried to “illustrate a dystopian world in the future when whiteness might become extinct” it ultimately was an “incredibly irresponsible and dangerous act.”
Instead, he proclaimed that “everyone knows that Black Lives Matter was a scam. Now its [sic] over. You’re welcome,” before accusing French billionaire Bernard Arnault, the CEO of fashion group LVMH, for being responsible for the death of Virgil Abloh.
West’s targeting of Karefa-Johnson and Abloh sparked harsh critiques from Gigi Hadid, who called West a “bully,” Vogue photographer who called his attack on Karefa-Johnson “corny AF,” and Supreme creative director Tremaine Emory, who labeled West “an insecure narcissist that’s dying for validation from the fashion world.”