2 May 2018

Africa: Excuse Me Kanye West, Slavery Was a Choice For Who, How?

Photo: Kwaw Kese/Instagram
Kanye West (file photo).

Cape Town — Kanye West, who has made extensive headlines recently with his support of President Donald Trump, sparked some serious backlash, and we thought it couldn't get much worse. Then he spoke about slavery...

"When you hear about slavery for 400 years. For 400 years? That sounds like a choice," Kanye West said in an interview. Black people were forcibly taken from Senegal, Gambia, Senegal, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Togo, Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Côte d'Ivoire to the U.S. during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries and sold as slaves - just the thought of this being a choice is appalling.

Honestly, Kanye West's brain and mouth are not working in concert. His thoughts are moving faster than his mouth and he's embarrassing a lot of people. From the Hip-Hop fans he got over the years, African Americans and those that call him a genius. Not that I care, but he's embarrassing himself too.

In most instances, this behaviour of victim-blaming originates from ignorance, meanness, or a smug sense of superiority - For those who don't know, Mr West has on several occasions said that he doesn't read books, but instead "experiences life". Genius, right? Hell no!

I think as a culture, we place so much emphasis on the importance of the right to express any opinions without censorship or restraint, but too little emphasis on educating yourself as well as your obligation to assess facts. Maybe if he had read a few books, he'd have said something like; Slavery was a choice, for white people, right.

Here's some book facts about slavery:

1. In 1619, the Dutch introduced the first captured Africans to America, planting the seeds of a slavery system that evolved into a nightmare of abuse and cruelty that would ultimately divide the nation.

2. Throughout the 17th century, European settlers in North America turned to African slaves as a cheaper, more plentiful labor source than indentured servants, who were mostly poorer Europeans.

3. Slave owners sought to make their slaves completely dependent on them, and a system of restrictive codes governed life among slaves. They were usually prohibited from learning to read and write, and their behavior and movement was restricted.

4. From 1526 to 1867, some 12.5 million slaves were shipped from Africa to the Americas with only about 10.7 million surviving the journey.

5. Many masters took raped women who were slaves, and rewarded obedient slave behavior with favors, while rebellious slaves were brutally punished.

6. Slave marriages had no legal basis, but slaves did marry and raise large families; most slave owners encouraged this practice, but nonetheless did not usually hesitate to divide slave families by selling or removing their children.

7. Slaves were forbidden to leave the owner's property unless accompanied by a white person, or with permission. If a slave left the owner's property without permission, "every white person" was required to chastise them.

8. Any slave attempting to run away and leave the colony (later, the state) received the death penalty.

9. Any slave who evaded capture for 20 days or more was to be publicly whipped for the first offense; branded with an "R" on the right cheek on the second offense; lose one ear if absent for thirty days on the third offense, and castrated on the fourth offense.

10. Slaves were legally considered non-persons unless they committed a crime. An Alabama court ruled that slaves "are rational beings, they are capable of committing crimes; and in reference to acts which are crimes, are regarded as persons. Because they are slaves, they are incapable of performing civil acts, and, in reference to all such, they are things, not persons."

At least I wasn't the only one dismayed when I saw Kanye's comments.

Here's what some of allAfrica's staff had to say:

Melissa Britz: It's exhausting dealing with whiteness ... and by that, I mean the economic and social construct that upholds white people. It puts out supposed 'truisms' like poor people don't work hard, so they choose to be poor. To hear the same school of thought from a black icon is disappointing, to say the least. But more importantly, it shows the stigma associated with mental illness and society's lack of support in dealing with mental health issues. Kanye has resources, he needs to focus inwardly.

Michael Tantoh: Slavery was never and will never be over. It simply moved from transporting black people to Europe and America to imprisoning them at home. From having them work for free to having them work even harder for slave wages. From directly controlling their resources to indirect control through the IMF and the World bank or forceful acquisitions through sponsored conflicts. That might however be too complex for poor Kanye so let him stay in his little rap bubble.

Melody Chironda: Kanye West has really lost his mind. How was slavery a choice? Choice is listening to your music (let me be clear - your old music). Whatever happened to the genius Kanye?. 400 years of slavery is not a choice. Are you high on something. Our forefathers were shipped into boats without a choice. You try to defend your words but why did you say them first. Everyone has right of freedom of speech but you damn lost it. You always express yourself as a free thinker and I guess you have just lost your thinking capacity right here. Quit acting like your shoe size and grow up, or maybe, better still get back on your medication.

And here's some more:

Phumzile Van Damme

Don't tell me there isn't even one person in Kanye's life who can tell him to "stop now, it's enough". Surely everyone has people like that? Unless of course he's a stubborn, self-destructive, know-it-all, & willing to destroy his career & legacy in order to be "right".

Dani Bagel

If you've ever experienced a person with bipolar going through a manic episode, there's nothing about Kanye's behavior that doesn't seem unfamiliar. Hyper inflated ego/God complex, detached from reality and impulsive resulting in "brilliant work/our the box ideas" then burnout.

DJ Trevor Nelson

Artists have always been political.Sometimes I choose to ignore their leanings and just enjoy the music.I tend to switch off when they do self righteous interviews.Kanye woke me up.Dude,never put the words 'Slavery' and 'choice' in the same sentence.

Tracy Boomeisha-Ann Clayton

Me in 2005: I'm so proud of kanye for telling the truth abt george bush not caring about black people. it needed to be said.
Me in 2018: I'm so proud of the black TMZ dude for telling the truth abt kanye not caring about black people. it needed to be said.

Bill Maher

The thing about #KanyeWest is, u don't know if he's trolling or just off his meds - Trump says there are good people on both sides of Kanye's head.

Anita Johnson

So Kanye had surgery lipo to "look good for yall" no wonder he is married to KimK...LOL when a man is not rooted in who he is, he falls for everything and cannot be a leader...i am now convinced Kim is the man in the marriage #KanyeWest

Henry Okelue

Kanye finally gave us reasons why he is acting mental. Dude is an opioid addict. When you roll with a gang, you will most likely do what that gang does - like getting plastic surgery to look good for us.

Elizabeth Ita

#KanyeWest just said 400 years of slavery was choice. I don't know whether to cancel Kanye or pray for Kanye. #KanyeGoToTherapy

Elle Pearson

I wish an old slave ghost could come back brand him and cut off big toes....give him the full run away slave treatment...you know show him what really happened when they made a CHOICE not to be enslaved@TMZ #KanyeWest

Sarah
Kanye tried to say on TMZ Live that Obama was too classy to care about low class people. This man is insane. A huge part of Obama's campaign was to help the lower class. Obama was for ALL people !! Kanye has officially lost his mind. #kanyewest #tmzlive

A'Lexus Murphy

Rather than using mental illness as a scapegoat to try and excuse what #KanyeWest is saying it's best to just acknowledge that he knows what he is saying and doing, and that it is hurtful to the black community. Using mental illness as an excuse to defend him is offensive.

Jawn Murray

I'm really uncomfortable with people trying to have logical dialogue about Kanye West, when it is impossible to make logic from someone battling mental illness. Kanye is unwell - that's a fact - and you should process his thoughts and views through that lens. Period! #KanyeWest

Find more reactions here.

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