Hate speech | Kanye West case a stark warning for HR, as workplace antisemitism grows

Kanye West case a stark warning for HR, as workplace antisemitism grows
Kanye West case a stark warning for HR, as workplace antisemitism grows

It’s unlikely that you’ll find the name Kanye West featuring much on HR Grapevine. We rarely find ourselves covering the actions of musicians, despite the fact that many employ a small army of professionals to organise their lives and handle their PR, among other things.

This is because there are likely few scenarios that offer true insight for the wider HR community. However, West’s recent actions demand attention from all anti-hate-speech advocates within the workplace – not just because they’re deplorable, but because they offer a stark warning that the HR community must observe.

Last week, West was forced to come to a settlement with a former employee, who alleged that the rapper had made frequent antisemitic comments in the workplace.

According to information gathered by NBC, as many as six of Kanye West’s personal employees confirmed that such comments were made in their presence, including alleged praise for deceased fascist dictator Adolf Hitler.

It's a disturbing case, however you’d be justified for questioning why you, as an HR leader, should be thinking about West within the context of your own business. The answer, sadly, is that West is just one of innumerable individuals who believe that antisemitic comments are acceptable. And, cases such as this are on the rise.

Antisemitism growing in the workplace

According to data from the Community Security Trust (CST), the body recorded 1,668 antisemitic incidents in the UK in 2021. This represents the third-highest total ever recorded in a single calendar year.

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A shocking one in four Jewish people claim to have been the target of antisemitic behaviour, such as a physical attack or a racial slur, according to a separate 2021 report by Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and yet more research by Antisemitism.org recently ascertained that 44% of British Jews do not display visible signs of their faith in public for fear of racism. This is the highest figure recorded since 2016.

What do we mean by antisemitism?

It seems that, whilst diversity and inclusion is now a pivotal part of any functional HR strategy, rampant racism is still very much a part of working life for Jewish people, and far more needs to be done to ensure that this demographic can work, and live, without fear of being the target of hatred.

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