Ahmaud Arbery's Mother Wanda Cooper-James Slams Kanye West, Says He's Legitimizing 'Extremist Behavior'

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Ahmaud Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-James, is the latest to speak out against Kanye "Ye" West's controversial YZY SZN 9 runway show. 

In a statement to Rolling Stone, Cooper-James expressed her "extreme disappointment" for West's "White Lives Matter" stunt.

"As a result of his display 'White Lives Matter' started trending in the U.S., which would directly support and legitimize extremist behavior, [much] like the behavior that took the life of her son," Cooper-James said per her attorney, Lee 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." 

West has drawn heavy criticism for his Oct. 3 presentation, where the rapper wore a T-shirt with the phrase "White Lives Matter" as he addressed attendees at the YZY show in Paris. As the show progressed, several models were also seen wearing the shirt, the front of which features an image of Pope John Paul II. The rapper was joined at the show by right-wing pundit Candace Owens, who also wore the inflammatory statement on her shirt. 

The father of four doubled down on his messaging in an Instagram Story on Tuesday, calling Black Lives Matter a "scam."

"Everyone knows that Black Lives Matter was a scam," he wrote. "Now its over. You're welcome."

Ahmaud Arbery's Mother Wanda Cooper-James Slams Kanye West, Says He's Legitimizing 'Extremist Behavior'
Kanye West/Instagram Story

West previously had lent his support to Arbery’s family after the 25-year-old was shot and killed in February 2020 while jogging in a neighborhood in Brunswick, Georgia.

Arbery's killing, captured on a disturbing video, drew national outcry. The three men convicted in his murder were sentenced to life in prison in January. Travis McMichael, 35, and his father, Gregory McMichael, 66, were sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Their neighbor, William "Roddie" Bryan, 52, will have to serve 30 years of his life sentence before he's eligible for parole.

In June 2020, West gave a generous donation to charities associated with Arbery, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. The rapper's rep confirmed to ET that West donated $2 million in total contributions to support the families and the legal defense for Arbery and Taylor. West also created a 529 college plan while fully covering college tuition for Floyd's 6-year-old daughter, Gianna.

West's relationship with race has long made headlines, with the rapper -- a champion of former President Donald Trump's MAGA campaign -- at one point supporting the Black Lives Matter movement just two years after claiming slavery was a "choice" during an explosive interview with TMZ.

Per the Anti-Defamation League, the phrase "White Lives Matter" is considered a "hate slogan," crafted by White supremacists in 2015 to co-opt the "Black Lives Matter" movement -- used by Black people protesting police brutality -- and reframe it. The movement and the intention behind the BLM phrase stand on their own apart from groups and organizations carrying the name.

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