Political scientists and historians have found a new full-time job to educate Kanye West on American history. The rapper has been increasingly vocal about a number of political issues on Twitter, and has gotten his facts wrong on several different occasions – but none of his past controversies compare to the shocking claim he made about slavery during a TMZ Live interview last Wednesday.
West’s comment that ‘slavery was a choice’ has gone viral on social media ever since the interview and experts are rolling up their sleeves to give the rapper a much-needed lesson on black history.
Free Thought or Absence of Thought?
Various historians and professors took to social media last week to express their disgust and outrage with Kanye West’s comment about slavery. The heated discussions among experts comes after the rapper sat down with TMZ hosts and casually mused that slavery was a choice. He said, “You were there for 400 years and it’s all of you all? It’s like they were mentally in prison.”
After the viral interview, Kanye received severe backlash from the black community, including TMZ senior producer Van Lathan, who immediately stood up to the rapper and told him that he wasn’t really a ‘free-thinker’ – in fact he wasn’t thinking at all. In the heated exchange, Lathan said that the rest of the society is not as privileged as West and has to deal with the consequences and marginalization that followed the 400 years of slavery.
Blair LM Kelley’s Response
West’s claims were rebutted on Twitter by a number of experts including Blair LM Kelley, a book author and professor at North Carolina State University, who said that she often heard the ‘slavery was a choice’ argument from people who were misinformed about American history. Anyone who has read about the torture and brutalization most slaves had to endure would never call the barbaric practice ‘a choice’.
In a series of Twitter posts, Kelley said that most naïve students in her courses would tell her that if it were them, they would have never agreed to be enslaved. But the truth is that the slaves didn’t choose to be torn apart from their families, tortured, murdered and become subject to indecent assault. They were captured and sold on auction blocks like animals, and those who tried to escape were brutally punished or executed as a way to send a message to the rest that defiance was not an option.
Kelley said that the slaves endured terrible living conditions that most of us today would not be able to, and they hadn’t shown resistance and will to survive even when there was no escape, people like Kanye West and herself wouldn’t even exist today. For those who endured, slavery was not a choice, but freedom was.
Roxanne Gay, a New York Times best-selling author, also condemned West’s viewpoint on twitter and said, “[Kanye] is not a free-thinker. He is a free moron who doesn’t read.”
The Rapper Defends Himself
Other history professors like Marc Lamont Hill from Temple University also jumped in to give West a history lesson on Twitter. He said that unlike the ridiculous claim that slavery was a choice, the Black people had resisted slavery at every step of the way. Many killed themselves by jumping out of the ships, others killed their masters or escaped in an act of defiance. The slaves resisted for 400 years and their resistance eventually led to freedom.
After receiving intense backlash for his comment, Kanye tried to defend himself with a number of tweets – one of them included a fake quote from Harriet Tubman which only served as further proof that Kanye needed to educate himself on historical facts before making claims on sensitive topics like slavery.
In one tweet, he admitted to knowing that slaves were indeed shackled and put on ships by force instead of getting on them willingly, but the fact that they remained enslaved for 400 years despite being in such large numbers seemed like a sign of mental weakness to him.