Kanye, Kyrie, and the Black Hebrew Israelite Movement

December 9, 2022
Maren Hettler

Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States

Class of 2025

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As Kyrie Irving returned from an eight-game suspension after promoting an antisemitic film on Twitter, dozens of Black Hebrew Israelites marched through Brooklyn. The march was orchestrated by Israel United in Christ (IUIC), a controversial Hebrew Israelite group. IUIC has used the controversy to recruit members to their “army.”

The Black Hebrew Israelite (BHI) movement comes from Black Judaism, a faith founded during the late 1800s by Black Christians who claimed that they were the true Hebrews. According to their teachings, when Israel was destroyed, the Israelites were dispersed across Africa and then captured and sold into slavery by enemy tribes. Black Judaism later influenced groups like the Nation of Islam and activists like Martin Luther King Jr. Eventually, extremist Black Israelite groups developed, some of which still exist today. However, Black Hebrew Israelites are not the same as Black Jews, and not all BHI organizations are antisemitic.

The extremist sector within the BHI movement, which believes that white people, especially white Jews, are deserving of only slavery and death, is growing fast and mostly spreading online through social media. “Since the pandemic, people have been using the internet to connect more than ever before. This is also true of extremists, who have used social media and underground communication channels to find each other across the country,” said Deryn Pressman-Mashin, Associate Regional Director of New England’s Anti-Defamation League (ADL). That’s why people like Kanye West and Kyrie Irving are spreading Black Israelite ideas without having any connection to these groups.

The film Irving promoted claims that Jews were responsible for the transatlantic slave trade. It also denies the Holocaust and amplifies antisemitic tropes. The film also included fabricated quotes that it attributed to Hitler. “[The Americans] plan on moving these false white Jews into a state of Israel. Because the white Jews know that the Negroes are the real children of Israel and to keep America’s secret, the Jews will blackmail America. They will extort America, their plan for world domination won’t work if the Negroes know who they are,” one read.

In addition to Irving, Kanye West, the rapper and songwriter known as Ye, also made antisemitic statements on social media. His comments reflect the teachings of multiple antisemitic groups, including the Black Hebrew Israelites and the Nation of Islam. The latter is a group that has been criticized by Muslims for promoting teaching that aren’t actually rooted in Islam.

Ye claimed that because Black people are “Jews” and “Semites,” he cannot be antisemitic. “Black people are also Jew, I classify as Jew also, so I actually can’t be an antisemite,” he said in October. This theory is often used to argue that Jews today are imposters plotting to oppress non-Jews. “What they've done is they stole your heritage, they stole your identity,” said one Black Hebrew Israelite marching in support of Irving.

Tom Metzger, former leader of California’s Klu Klux Klan, once called extremist Black Hebrew Israelite groups “the Black counterparts” of white supremacists, and just like white supremacy, the popularization of Black Hebrew Israelite ideas has deadly consequences. Victims range from Martin Luther King Jr.’s mother to shoppers at a kosher supermarket.

Although the antisemitic sentiments shared by Ye and Irving may seem to have come out of nowhere, their views are shared by thousands of men and women who have joined the Black Hebrew Israelite movement. As the movement grows, so will the number of attacks. In September, researchers at George Washington University concluded that the biggest threat comes from individuals inspired by BHI teachings—individuals like Kyrie Irving and Kanye West.

The vision of these extremist BHI groups—a world where white people, Jews, and other “enemies” of their movement are either killed or sold into slavery after the return of Christ—was encapsulated in “The Gods of Times Square,” a 2007 documentary. "White boy, you're next," warned a preacher. "All you white people get ready for war. We're coming for you, white boys. Negroes are the real Jews. Get ready for war!"

Maren Hettler is a BBG from Nona Bloch Salomon in NTO and she loves olives!

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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