Kanye Thinks Slavery Was a ‘Choice’ & Everyone is Stunned
The controversial rapper has been in the spotlight recently for tweeting comments causing widespread outrage.
Rapper, designer, and regular foot-in-mouth placer, Kanye West landed in his biggest (yet) controversy by arguing that 400 years of slavery was a “choice” for people of colour.
Kanye – who is reentering public life after a quiet year – made the comments during a video interview with entertainment site TMZ.
When you hear about slavery for 400 years... For 400 years? That sounds like a choice. You was there for 400 years and it’s all of y’all. It’s like we’re mentally in prison. I like the word prison because slavery goes too direct to the idea of blacks. Slavery is to blacks as the Holocaust is to Jews. Prison is something that unites as one race, blacks and whites, that we’re the human race.Kanye West to TMZ
Just days before the 1 May interview, Kanye had courted controversy over his support for US President Donald Trump. The controversial rapper-designer is best known for comments that cause widespread outrage, but his remarks on slavery left the world stunned at his ability to whip up emotions.
Kanye didn’t get off easy even on the sets of TMZ, with an employee, Nathan Van Lathan, taking him to task for his comments. Van Lathan confronted him, implying that Kanye does not appreciate his position and privileges.
While you are making music and being an artist and living the life that you’ve earned by being a genius, the rest of us in society have to deal with these threats to our lives... We have to deal with the marginalisation that’s come from the 400 years of slavery that you said was a choice for our people.Van Lathan to Kanye
Van Lathan added, “Frankly, I’m disappointed, I’m appalled, and brother, I am unbelievably hurt by the fact that you have morphed into something. To me, that’s not real.”
The rapper later tried to reverse the damage with some (now deleted) tweets, it was naturally too late. He tried to defend himself by saying, "My point is for us to have stayed in that position even though the numbers were on our side means that we were mentally enslaved."
“Of course I know that slaves did not get shackled and put on a boat by free will,” Kanye wrote on Twitter.
The Backlash That Was Quick and Fierce
Black Eyed Peas singer Will.i.am reacted sharply to Kanye’s off-hand comments, saying that it was "one of the most ignorant statements that anybody who came from the hood could ever say about their ancestors."
In an interview with ITV's Good Morning Britain, the singer said that Kanye’s comments "broke my heart" and were "harmful", reminding him of his grandmother and her mother and their lives in slavery.
The singer also took to Twitter to express his outrage at Kanye’s comments.
Other members of the industry, friends and colleagues also did not mince words while reacting to Kanye’s ignorance.
Filmmaker Ava DuVernay, of Selma and Disney's A Wrinkle in Time, called Kanye’s comments “ignorant” and was particularly annoyed when he used a lynching metaphor to talk about the backlash he was facing.
In one tweet, Kanye said "[T]hey cut out our tongues so we couldn't communicate to each other. I will not allow my tongue to be cut. They hung the most powerful in order to force fear into the others." DuVernay responded with a glimpse into the horrors of slavery.
Author Roxane Gay called the singer a “moron” in her response.
Film and television director Spike Lee posted a photo of himself with Kanye on Instagram profile and tried to educate the singer.
Actor and director Wendell Pierce called him out for trying to be sensational and criticised his way of doing it.
John Legend, who had a heated exchange with Kanye last week over the latter’s comments on Trump, also joined those who seemed to have had enough of Kanye’s insensitivity as he retweeted posts by others in the industry harshly criticising him.
He also shared a comment by Marc Lamont Hill, American author, academic and journalist.
Comedian Romesh Ranganathan called Kanye “an incredible advert for finishing college,” in a reference to the star's 2004 album The College Dropout.
However, rapper TI, who has courted controversy repeatedly, came to Kanye’s defense, saying that, “He tends to believe that it's going to force everyone to engage and discuss things that we would not have discussed before he made this statement,' TI said. He added, “If people have to hate me in order to do that, so be it.”
Twitter Trolls Kanye With #IfSlaveryWasAChoice
The industry wasn’t the only one bringing all guns to the table. Twitterati showed up with their best creative skills, with serious/funny creations that ripped apart Kanye’s comments. They took to the social media platform with the hashtag #IfSlaveryWasAChoice, which went viral and was trending within hours of the TMZ video going live.
Some imagined the slaves having a gala time on the cotton fields or having great ambitions of being good slaves.
A History Lesson for Kanye (and Everyone Else)
Manisha Sinha, author of The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition, said “Enslaved people fled for freedom whenever they got the opportunity,” in an interview with TIME. “When they did not have the right to vote, they voted with their feet,” said the author, who takes a look at the role that fugitive slaves and other people of colour played in the effort to end slavery.
According to the report, Sinha suggested that Kanye should read slave spirituals and black folk tales from the period of slavery that speak about the longing of enslaved people for freedom. She also said, “His music stems from those slave spirituals. He ought to know that. He ought to know that even when blacks were enslaved, their minds were not enslaved.”
According to Sinha, Kanye’s clarification that the enslaved could not fight back contrasted sharply with the reality that “the history of thousands of slaves who fled from slavery and rebelled against it.”
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