YOOHYUN PARK/MULTIMEDIA COORDINATOR
Kanye West’s antisemitism has instilled fear and distress in the McMaster Jewish community
The public antisemitic comments made by multimillionaire musician Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, this past month have brought discussions of antisemitism and religious discrimination to the forefront.
In October 2022, West went to several public platforms, including Fox News, Instagram and Twitter, and made several offensive and violent comments towards the Jewish community. A few of the most notable comments include West’s claim that the Jewish holiday Hanukah includes education on “financial engineering”, as well as a claim that Jewish people are exercising control over his colleagues in the music industry to intimidate him.
The most violent among West’s statements may be his now deleted tweet from October 9th. West’s Twitter and Instagram accounts received temporary suspensions and his brand deal with Adidas has been terminated following his statements.
West perpetuated several common antisemitic tropes in his public comments. The main themes of West’s antisemitism are ones that have been seen several times before — that all Jewish people are powerful and control the media or that Jewish people are greedy and have control over financial institutions. These narratives have existed for decades in popular media, and although many acknowledge the outlandish nature of these stereotypes, they continue to be used against the Jewish community.
West’s violence has not been isolated. His actions have allowed others to feel comfortable sharing their own antisemitic views. Following his viral tweets, antisemitic banners were hung above a Freeway in Los Angeles stating, “Kanye was right about the Jews”.
Jewish McMaster Biology student Andrew Johnston commented on the underestimated impact of many common antisemitic tropes.
“I feel like microaggressions towards Jews often have a deeper meaning and history behind them. Like, it may not seem harmful when people say Jews control everything, but it is. Offensive rhetoric towards Jewish people is more nuanced, as it's not very in your face, but it can be very harmful,” said Johnston.
In an email statement to The Silhouette, McMaster Hillel president Atara Lipetz commented on these antisemitic hate crimes and their impact on the neighbouring Jewish communities.
“Unfortunately, Jewish students at McMaster are not immune to the effects of antisemitism and recent statements by Kanye West and others have done great harm by spreading antisemitic sentiments. This dangerous rhetoric normalizes antisemitism and fuels hatred. There have also been a number of recent antisemitic incidents around university campuses in Ontario, including graffiti and swastikas,” said Lipetz in the email statement.
As referenced by McMaster Hillel, Queen’s University has also seen a stark increase in antisemitic vandalism in the last few weeks following the height of West’s public hate. A swastika was vandalized on the fridge of a Queens residence building and several antisemitic phrases have been found vandalized throughout campus, including “Kill the Jews”.
Jewish McMaster Biochemistry student Alan Minkovich discussed how unfortunately, West’s far-reaching and strong influence does not surprise him and he is anticipating West’s words to resonate even within his own communities.
“[West] is somebody who touches all kinds of people. They're going to hear this and see him co-opting white supremacist symbols and making them marketable and many people are going to think that this is okay just because it’s him,” said Minkovich
West’s antisemitic rhetoric does not exist in a vacuum. As McMaster students and faculty, we must be aware on how external hate and violence towards marginalized groups may influence members within our own community and support one another.
In their written statement, McMaster Hillel also describes the importance of creating spaces for Jewish people on campus in light of recent antisemitic violence and hate speech.
“[McMaster Hillel] aims to create a community for Jewish students, and foster collaborative relationships with other groups across campus. The Jewish community is the most frequently targeted religious minority in the country, according to Statistics Canada, and we need our friends and allies to stand with us during these challenging times.” said McMaster Hillel.
At this time, it is important to uplift the Jewish student voices and experiences, and ensure that the spread of dangerous rhetoric is halted before it leads to further hatred and violence.
Adjusting to the “new normal” is a necessary step for our mental health
By: Ardena Bašić, Contributor
For more than a year, restrictions imposed on us due to the COVID-19 pandemic have forced us to change our way of life. Habitual activities like parties, work and exercise have either been moved to virtual platforms or missed altogether. The need to decline an invitation due to the health risks of socialization can be called “the COVID excuse.” While the word “excuse” may sound harsh, it better represents the completely reasonable need to decline an invitation that could be perilous to one’s health.
However, as the pandemic slowly improves and vaccination rates rise, how much longer can this excuse last? This is an especially important inquiry considering the impact that a lack of social activity has had on our health. By no means am I advocating for risking your health, but the need to support your mental health must be balanced along with our distaste for modified gatherings, such as virtual or outdoor socializing. With laws and regulations loosening, it’s time to move away from “the COVID excuse” in order to restore our social lives, health and return to a new normal.
For many, the pandemic took away whatever level of social life one had maintained beforehand. Regardless of whether one was more introverted or extroverted to begin with, there was now no choice but to minimize social gatherings. Although virtual meetings were always an option, they were certainly not the same and discouraged many from trying such methods. For a prolonged period, we could return to the excuses, expressing that “it’s not the same” or questioning the point of even planning such events.
These responses are certainly understandable, as anxiety and fear about the potential of getting COVID have been omnipresent for quite some time. Yet, while these exchanges were beneficial in easing some fears and flattening the curve at the beginning of the pandemic, they now may be doing more harm than good.
Despite an emphasis on resources for mental health during initial lockdown periods, research still found that staying at home and personal distancing increased the prominence of depression, anxiety, insomnia and stress. When coupled with avoiding evolved ways of socializing, these behaviours simply compounded the general stress of the pandemic and led to severely worsened states of health for many.
The routines we took for granted on a regular basis, when drastically pulled out of our lives without warning, had a major impact on our wellbeing.
Although it will take time, we need to gradually make our way into the “new normal” that may share some qualities of how we lived before, while evolving to include public health measures that are keeping us safe. This will be the key to bettering our health, as well as ebbing continuous fears about the virus. For example, instead of weekend brunches, try outdoor hikes. Outside activities are recognized to be safer in minimizing the spread of the coronavirus and the fresh air and exercise is always invaluable. Moreover, trips to the theater can be replaced with software that allows one to stream movies while on a group call. Of course, this is not the same as in-person plans.
However, the benefits to be gained from any socializing, whether it be virtual or real, trump any reservations about new methods of seeing our loved ones.
All in all, COVID-19 has completely changed the way we live our lives. Even though it may be easier to continuously blame COVID for avoiding pre-pandemic activities, it is vital to our wellbeing that we gradually work our way towards new routines. Even though it may be difficult at first, there is comfort in knowing that everyone is in similar situations and we can work together to construct a comfortable, safe and happy post-COVID world.
The years spent in university are often said to be those where we first come face-to-face with the “real world”, characterized by a transitioning period from teenage angst, to even more angst, to grappling with who we are and, finally, shaking hands with the real world as the person we want to be. A myriad of experiences will come together to shape us into this person. It does not happen overnight, nor will it happen easily, but each of these experiences is vital in challenging us to discover who we really are.
The key word here is challenge. Highlight this word. Cut out this word. Be friends with this word. Because to overcome something that you are afraid of is to be able to look back and say, “I persevered, and now my mark is here.”
And these people who have left their mark, despite challenges, are all around us. Some write about it, some talk about it, some wait for the right moment before discussing it at all. McMaster University is the home to a plethora of individuals with such stories. But the story of Lisa Pope is one we are privileged enough to share with you, and, in fact, it’s not so much a story as it is an invitation to challenge yourself.
Lisa Pope, a graduating Honours Life Sciences student, dedicated her summer to the Kalu Yala Independent Study Abroad and Entrepreneurial Internships in Panama this past summer. Drawing people from across the world, Lisa was one of the only individuals from Canada. This diversity, however, encouraged the integration of distinct ideas that could build towards the common goal that was uniting them all: the creation of Kalu Yala, and thus developing the world’s most sustainable town.
The program is incredibly unique among international outreach initiatives in that it gives each team member an opportunity to be highly independent in how they choose to take part in the creation of Kalu Yala. Lisa was a member of the Agriculture team, made up of thirty students who came to get their hands just about as dirty as an outreach program can get them. Living in a jungle for three months, all while putting in both labour of the body and mind into a personally developed initiative, can take physical and psychological tolls on any team member. Lisa, however, took on a challenge perhaps more brutal than the typical member due to a recent diagnosis with symptoms of Crohn’s disease,
Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease, where those affected are subject to severe abdominal pain, bowel disruptions, and even malnutrition. Given the strenuous nature of this program, another set of challenges could appear more repellent than enticing; instead of allowing her symptoms to hold her back, Lisa used her pain as a catalyst for unparalleled personal growth.
“I’m 23 years old living with a chronic disease and it’s something that’s never going to go away,” said Pope. “At this point, you decide to live your life or not, and this was my summer to do that. I decided to go and be in control of my disease.” In a location far removed from any Western world comforts or distractions, Lisa delved into a project that would eventually lead to a 75-page document, building a vast medicinal garden with her own hands, and leaving behind her own mark in a community that will forever leave an indelible imprint on her.
By planting over 300 different edible species of plants and trees, the impact her project will have upon the community in ten, or even five years, is momentous. Approximately 150 people will be fed daily as a result of her own hardships and hard work. And yet, perhaps the most striking message Lisa has taken home with her is not only the acceptance of failure at Kalu Yala, but also the desire for it.
“We love to fail at Kula Yala,” Pope said. Coming from a Science degree, where marks are snatched up without a second thought for any mistakes, and there is no gray area between the black and white of correct or wrong, this was a breath of fresh air. To fail was to succeed, and this paradoxical message can resonate with most students as wholly liberating. With failure, the members of Kalu Yala would not look at such a position as the defeated finish line, but rather an opportunity to start again, and allotting their knowledge of what won’t work as a propelling force towards success.
“If that means shooting for the stars and failing, that’s fine,” said Pope. “We shot for the stars and we realized that didn’t work so well, so we just have to figure out what we can do next time to make it better.”
In an eight-hour day, with four spent in the morning working alongside a director of the team, and the afternoon dedicated to the dirty work, there were three unmistakable qualities of the interns at Kalu Yala Independent Study Abroad and Entrepreneurial Internships: passionate, positive, and pursuing. Lisa Pope is an embodiment of such qualities, and although her self-proclaimed “invisible disease” has inevitably placed a series of unforgiving obstacles in her path, these qualities are in the foundation of the new path she’s building herself.
Every path a student will take in university is distinct from the next, and the obstacles just as varied, but the lesson to be taken from Lisa Pope and Kalu Yala is that no challenge can act as a barrier to leaving your mark in the world, but that challenges are forces that will leave your mark even more palpable.