Ye, the American rapper formerly known as Kanye West, likes beef more than any South African braai aficionado. In recent months he’s launched verbal hand grenades at what feels like half the world. His latest target? SA comedian Trevor Noah, who drew Ye’s ire with comments he made on The Daily Show about the rapper’s relationship with his soon-to-be ex-wife, Kim Kardashian.
Okay, that may sound like a WHOLE LOT of celebrity gossip you don’t care about. But as Noah himself put it in the thoughtful segment that provoked Ye, this story has transcended mere juicy scandal. As we told you before, Ye’s behaviour towards Kardashian has spotlighted the harassment that countless women face when they try to leave abusive and toxic relationships. In the unscripted 10-minute segment, Noah poignantly referred to his own experiences of witnessing domestic abuse. Fans of the superstar will know that his mother was shot in the head by her ex after their divorce – she survived. Noah recounted heartbreaking memories of going to police (in SA presumably) and trying to get help as the abuse escalated over time, only to be dismissed as overreacting. The same thing is happening to Kardashian. As Noah noted: if Kim Kardashian, whatever you may think of her, can’t get her ex to leave her alone, what hope do less powerful women have?
Ye (who has said he has bipolar mood disorder and refused to seek psychiatric treatment) responded to Noah by posting a picture on Instagram that referenced the song “Kumbaya”. That’s not as innocent as it sounds: He deliberately mis-spelt the lyrics “Koon baya my lord”, a reference to the racist word “coon”. As one commentator previously put it, the term is used as “an intraracial slur to castigate a certain type of Black person who betrays race”.
Ye’s attempts to turn this into a race issue are both dangerous and disingenuous. His online behaviour is catching up with him, though: Meta, formerly Facebook, suspended his Instagram account for 24 hours on Wednesday for violating company policies on hate speech, bullying and harassment. It’s not clear if this was directly related to the post about Noah, which has since been removed. Before it was deleted, Noah responded with class and empathy on the post itself. He noted his admiration for Ye, adding: “The biggest trick racists ever played on Black people was teaching us to strip each other of our blackness whenever we disagree.” Amen.
This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 17 March 2022. Sign up to receive our weekly updates.