Kanye (“Ye”), Kyrie, and the Black Hebrew Israelite Elephant in the Room

Kanye (“Ye”), Kyrie, and the Black Hebrew Israelite Elephant in the Room by Dr Michael Brown for Ask Dr Brown

If you live in a major city of America, then you have probably been well aware of the Black Hebrew Israelites for a few decades. But for many other Americans, their numbers, their influence, and their beliefs are coming as quite a revelation – and a shocking one at that.

In the early 1990s, while walking the streets of Manhattan before an outreach service one Saturday afternoon, I heard a loud voice booming through a PA system.

When I got closer to the sound, I was surprised to see a small crowd of listeners, all of them Black, listening carefully to the speaker who was standing on a platform, with bodyguards standing on the street in front of him.

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Their outfits were striking – I remember thinking they looked like a cross between Star Wars and some type of angelic garb – but their words were even more striking. They were quoting the Bible and some other books, even using occasional Hebrew words. At once I realized who they were.

They taught that they were the original (and true) Israelites and that white Jews (like me) were not real Jews. Rather, we were the manifestation of Satan.

I politely challenged the speaker, asking him why Hitler wanted to kill us if we weren’t real Jews, to which he gave a very weak reply, instead trying to provoke the crowd against me.

I then shouted to everyone, “These men are preaching a religion of hate! Jesus preached a religion of love! One day, we will both be at the bottom of the barrel and we will need each other.”

The response from the crowd was quick: “Death to the White man! Death to America!” (For my more recent encounter with these men, this time in Charlotte, North Carolina, where I called out their racism and bigotry and told them they needed Jesus, see here.)

Over the years, however, these Black Hebrew Israelites (who have many different groups and divisions among them), have continued to grow and expand their influence, to the point that they appear to have well over one million adherents nationwide. More tellingly, millions more Black Americans are sympathetic to their viewpoints.

As noted in a November 25, 2022 article published by the JTA, “The 2020 U.S. Census put the Black population at 41.1 million, so extrapolating from the Lifeway [polling] data, there are approximately 1.6 million Hebrew Israelites in the U.S. — not counting the small numbers of Latinos and Native Americans who also belong to Israelite groups — and 7.8 million people who may not identify as Israelites but who agree with the spiritual movement’s main teachings.”

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