What’s up, y’all? As I’m sure you all have heard by now, Kanye West has been in the media a lot lately due to his peculiar behavior. First, he sent out a series of tweets showing his unwavering support for Donald Trump, which disappointed a lot of people.
Then, Kanye released his single “Lift Yourself,” which upset and confused even more fans. In case you’re not sure what song I’m referring to, that’s the “poopedy-scoop” track (that has to ring some bells). However, what really had folks talking was the two interviews he did with Charlamagne Tha God and TMZ. The Charlamagne interview was extremely interesting and left people understanding Kanye’s views just a bit…but then he had to do that damn TMZ interview. The interview at the TMZ newsroom was a complete 180º from the one he and Charlamagne had. Kanye was a lot more loud and manic, made a point of addressing everyone in the office, and even offered this now infamous quote:
“When you hear about slavery for 400 years—for 400 years? That sound like a choice. [chuckles] Like, you was there for 400 years and there’s all of y’all? Y’know like, it’s like we’re mentally imprisoned.”
What Kanye uttered in that newsroom was more than just insulting. It was dangerous. Allow me to explain with a bit of a history lesson. During the years of slavery, or the Antebellum era, there actually were revolts—an estimated 250. In Dr. Samuel A. Cartwright’s book, Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race, he referred to this phenomenon as “drapetomania,” which he described as a disease to cause slaves to run away.
Despite that there were some many slaves rebelling against being in bondage, the clear majority of the revolts were unsuccessful. This can be chalked up to the fact that the slaves were lacking something that white men in this age had in spades: money and power. On top of that, many other slaves may have been afraid to rebel or at the very least join in the other revolts such as Nat Turner’s Rebellion or Gabriel’s Conspiracy due to the consequences they’d face if the masters stopped them. As a matter of fact, Gabriel’s rebellion ended due to being betrayed by a slave named Pharaoh, who feared the masters’ wrath. According to PBS.com, after Nat Turner’s Rebellion of 1831, 200 people were executed by white mobs, some of which had nothing to do with the revolt. What’s worse is that after Nat Turner was executed, he was skinned, his body parts were made into souvenirs, and the rest of his remains were rendered into grease. It appears the slaves only had two “choices”: work or die.
My homegirl and I were talking about Kanye’s declaration of slavery being a choice and agreed that he may have tried to convey that the slaves in America suffered from mental bondage. This is true, to an extent. As I just explained, many slaves were frightened of retribution from rebelling against their masters. During the times of the Antebellum South, it was also believed that black people were mentally inferior to white people, and this mentality was drilled into slaves’ heads by people like Dr. Cartwright, and many others. This is what’s commonly known as debasement, a crippling mentality that continues to affect the black community.
However, Kanye failed to elaborate on his point, and his statement basically sounded like slavery wasn’t a big deal, it could’ve ended at any time if black people back then wanted it to, and we shouldn’t be so hard pressed about it. This statement was made during a time when black people are arrested for sitting in Starbucks or falling asleep in Yale residential halls, shot for walking in a strange neighborhood armed with nothing more than a bag of Skittles, and are looked upon as being “whiners” when they explain why Confederate memorabilia is offensive. On the flip side, when Confederate memorabilia is removed, there’s protesters that claim the soldiers were “heroes.”
I understand that Kanye is all for “free thought” now, and I’m fine with that. If he wants to be a Trump supporter, fine. I don’t agree with that, for countless reasons, but that’s his right. But if Kanye wants to think free, there must be some logic and reasoning behind the statements that he makes, or at the very least, he should find better ways to formulate his arguments. Him saying slavery is a choice in the way he put it is dangerous because the wrong people hear what he’s saying and agree with him. “If Kanye said it, it must be okay! After all, he’s black!”
It fuels that disbelief that black people “whine” about anything detrimental that happens to them and/or they should just get over their ancestors being oppressed so long ago, because they enabled it, which in turn, lets the “Confederate heroes” off the hook for centuries of treating human beings like chattel. Kanye, you have a platform whether you like it or not. At the very least, you should use it wisely. As my late grandmother always told me, “Think before you speak.” Do better, Kanye.
So what do you think about what Kanye said about slavery? Do you think it was a conscious choice, or did the slaves have very little say so concerning their lives in the Antebellum South? Do you believe Kanye was strictly talking about mental slavery? Do you think he should’ve elaborated more on his statement? Let me know in the comments section!