The phrase is categorized by the Anti-Defamation League as a hate slogan. Per the Southern Poverty Law Center, White Lives Matter is a neo-Nazi group that was created as “a racist response to the civil rights movement Black Lives Matter.”
Wanda Cooper-Jones, the mother of the late Ahmaud Arbery, called out the rapper and fashion designer for helping to “legitimize extremist behavior” with the viral incident.
In February 2020, Arbery was murdered in a hate crime while jogging through the Satilla Shores neighborhood in Georgia after three white men chased him down and shot him.
In a statement to Rolling Stone, Cooper-Jones expressed her “extreme disappointment” in West’s behavior, adding that the stunt made a mockery of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“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 communicated through her attorney Lee Merritt. “That is the thing that Wanda and families like hers continue to fight against.”
The statement continued: “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]. It’s confusing for her, it’s confusing for the families to receive his support privately, but publicly to set us all back.”
Amid the wave of backlash over the controversial shirt, West, who legally changed his name to Ye last year, posted and deleted a number of messages on Tuesday morning to his Instagram addressing the criticism — including one post calling the BLM movement a “scam.”
“Everyone knows that Black Lives Matter was a scam. Now it’s over. You’re welcome,” he wrote.
He further ignited the criticism by posing for a photo next to conservative commentator Candace Owens, who also wore the same shirt in white.
Some of the models on the catwalk of Ye’s show also wore shirts with the same message, The Guardian reported.
Ye previously had lent his support to Arbery’s family by covering their legal fees in the family’s quest for justice after the unarmed Black jogger was chased and killed by father and son Greg McMichael and Travis McMichael, and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan.
In June 2020, Ye also donated $2 million to the families of Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.