Saturday, May 5, 2018

Kanye West's "Slavery Was A Choice" Rant (TMZ video, two articles, & three video responses)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post showcases a video of rapper Kanye West's "Slavery Was A Choice" rant on TMZ and presents two articles about that rant.

This post also showcases three of the numerous responses to that rant which have been published on YouTube: a video from CNN news journalist: Don Lemon; a video featuring rapper, musician, activist, and a video featuring two First Take (American sports talk show on ESPN) cast members.

The content of this post is presented for historical and socio-cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post and thanks to all the publishers of these videos on YouTube.

UPDATE: May 5, 2018

I added the May 3, 2018 video entitled "Kanye West: The Backlash | TMZ Live". That video includes sub-titles.

SHOWCASE VIDEO OF THE TMZ INTERVIEW: Kanye West Stirs Up TMZ Newsroom Over Trump, Slavery, Free Thought | TMZ

TMZ, Published on May 1, 2018

Kanye West just told the TMZ newsroom why he believes slavery is a choice and why he decided to sport his "Make America Great Again" hat ... and it all went down Tuesday morning on "TMZ Live."
This video of Kanye's Rant on TMZ Live including his heated back-and-forth with TMZ staffer Van Lathan

This version of this interview doesn't include any profanity, unlike some other versions of that interview (when Kanye talked about being on opiates when the first time that he visited Trump at the White House).

These articles are given in chronological order:
Article #1
From The ignorance of Kanye West
West says he’s a free thinker. His slavery comments show that he doesn’t understand history.
By P.R. Lockhart May 2, 2018, 12:50pm EDT
"With his recent comments about slavery, Kanye West may have just waded into his biggest controversy yet.

During a Tuesday appearance on TMZ Live, the rapper talked about his relationship with President Donald Trump and mused on a number of different subjects. Then he made a claim that was shocking even for him.

“When you hear about slavery for 400 years — for 400 years? That sounds like a choice,” West told the TMZ newsroom. “Like, you were there for 400 years and it’s all of y’all?”

“It’s like we’re mentally imprisoned,” he added.

TMZ employee Van Lathan quickly rebuffed West’s comments. “I actually don’t think you are thinking anything,” he told the rapper in a clip that quickly went viral. “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 marginalization that has come from the 400 years of slavery that you said for our people was a choice.”

West’s comments come after a spate of tweets over the past week where he’s shared a number of personal and political opinions. On April 21, West tweeted favorably about right-wing commentator and Black Lives Matter critic Candace Owens. Later that week, he expressed his love for Trump, and shared photos of himself in a Make America Great Again hat autographed by the president, photos that were later shared on Trump’s Twitter. When his famous friends texted him to disagree with his comments, West shared screenshots of those responses too.

With each comment, West has argued that he is simply being a “free thinker.” But with his most recent remarks, he has only shown just how little he understands.

West’s slavery comments highlight a deeper issue with how US history is understood
The backlash to West’s TMZ comments was swift. Several celebrities weighed in on social media, criticizing his words. Director Spike Lee urged him to “WAKE UP,” and writer Roxane Gay tweeted that West “is not a free thinker. He is a free moron who doesn’t read.”

During an interview with Good Morning Britain, musician also shared his thoughts. “I understand the need to have free thought, but if your thoughts aren’t researched, that is just going to hurt those that are still in conditions where it’s not choice,” he said.

Twitter users started the hashtag #IfSlaveryWasAChoice to share their thoughts about Kanye’s comments, with some sharing jokes and others seeking to educate the rapper on why his comments were off base. Historians participated as well.

“Slavery wasn’t their choice at any step,” Blair L.M. Kelley, an associate professor at North Carolina State University, tweeted, referring to Africans who were captured and forcibly brought to the US as slaves. “Denigrating their lives at this point for attention and spare change is such an embarrassment,” she added.

In the hours since the exchange about slavery, West has been on the defensive. He’s sent a flood of tweets defending his initial comments, and shared a quote that has long been falsely attributed to Harriet Tubman. He’s also compared himself to both Tubman and Nat Turner, the leader of a slave rebellion in 1831.


“Of course I know that slaves did not get shackled and put on a boat by free will,” West wrote on Twitter. “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.”

West also tweeted that he was “being attacked for presenting new ideas.” It’s a claim that he’s raised repeatedly in recent days, where he presents himself as a “free thinker” who is sharing hard truths about race.

While West’s arguments may be surprising coming from a musician who once rapped about “trying to buy back our 40 acres,” and who famously declared that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” after Hurricane Katrina, they aren’t new.

Whether he’s aware of it or not, West is speaking to a broader false narrative about slavery that has long existed — one that argues enslaved people were happy with their position.

It’s a narrative that’s used to invoke the argument that the Civil War was fought not to preserve slavery but to defend states’ rights. It’s a narrative in which Confederate generals are recast as honorable men acting out of a sense of duty, rather than acting on a desire to keep other people enslaved — people whose labor was worth billions of dollars and provided the economic engine that built America.

It’s a narrative that ignores the men, women, and children forcibly removed from their homes and separated from their families, and it’s a narrative that ignores those who fought to be free, risking their lives to escape plantations. For those who didn’t escape, this narrative blames them for the bondage forced upon them.

West’s comments aren’t a difference in opinion brought on by enlightened thought, as he’s trying to portray them — they are a rejection of history and of facts. And it’s only by recognizing this harmful narrative for what it is that we can begin to confront the past and try to rectify it."

Article #2
From Five Black Scholars Respond to Kanye West’s Remarks on Slavery, Trump and Obama
Newsweek Dory Jackson,Newsweek Thu, May 3 [2018]
..."Jeffrey Q. McCune Jr., author of On Kanye: A Philosophy of Black Genius and associate professor of women, gender, sexuality studies and African and African American studies at Washington University in St. Louis, in Missouri: “The enigma which has been Kanye West for the last decade has never made itself user-friendly, or a product easily understood or digested by the passerby. I am probably one of [the] few people who think that the large majority of Kanye's rants make sense at [the] core—revealing an element of profound thought, usually relegated to society's philosophical academic types. This 'slavery' moment, as it will be called, is not one such genius moment. Even in his more erratic or spastic moments, he has never made such a nonsensical misstep.... In my opinion, there was no way that Kanye West—who has illustrated as much intelligence and wit—truly thought slavery was a choice.... There was no period of slavery where the choice to be mentally free would have been viable; it was a grave site of 'unfreedom' and violence. It was the freeing of the slaves in law—emancipation—which offered them a sense of freedom. But, many had difficulty imagining freedom, after years of captivity and dehumanization. Kanye seems to be asking us to free our minds; to release ourselves of the captured mind. This is consistent with Kanye over the last decade. Kanye's whole musical catalogue—the body of work where musical artists instill their most consistent messages—has negated slavery was ‘a choice.’ From ‘New Slaves’ to ‘Ultra Light Beam,’ Kanye has given us no reason to see this rhetorical slip as anything other than a really bad interview moment gone viral."

Carole Boyce Davies, professor of Africana studies and English at Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York: "Many documentations of the punishments meted out to people who dared exercise 'choice' not to stay enslaved are available. If We Must Die (2009) documents over 500 shipboard rebellions.... A whole genre of slave narratives and abolitionist work provides the information that Kanye needs to engage in an informed presentation of his ideas on slavery.... One can understand the frustration of Kanye West seeing no change in the Chicago of his childhood, even after having a politician from Chicago—Barack Obama—become president. Perhaps the critique of Obama has been silenced in favor of a celebratory narrative. This critique cannot come at the expense of denigrating all black people, which he does by suggesting that our people chose brutality and enslavement for 400 years without resisting. Clearly, Obama in eight years could not undo that same 400 years of degradation and its results. My advice to Kanye: Read. Maybe finish your degree, even doing online study. Donate to African American studies departments. Maybe name a fellowship after your mother."

Michael Hill, associate professor of English at the University of Iowa, in Iowa City: "Since the civil rights era, black celebrity has existed between opulent emulation and exalted exceptionalism. With the law enforcement crisis during Obama’s presidency, black celebrities once again heard an activist calling. They could not risk irrelevance when Black Lives Matter and other grassroots protests were defining the spirit of the black community.... His half-huckster, half-eccentric epistemologist routine strikes the mainstream press as less amusing and more alarming. This truth brings us to the core of the matter: Kanye West's most generative guise is that of the tortured, gestating talent. When he slips that mantle and eyes authoritative racial spokespersonship, then he mocks the very panoply of viewpoints that he purports to cherish. Perhaps, his glib summaries of slavery are byproducts of awkward phrasing rather than heinous convictions."

Greg Thomas, associate professor of English and Africana studies, at Tufts University, in Boston: "He is a caricature of many things, and one who always has things to sell—for somebody. He is known primarily for throwing tantrums at the door of white elite social acceptance.... He is supposed to be somehow pro-Trump and anti-slavery, the dropout, who knows neither the meaning of freedom or slavery but sickly wants to be the focus of this kind of attention at any cost. What too many too carelessly call Hip-Hop is not to be confused with the 'consumer society' commodification of personality put to beats.... 'Slavery' lasts for centuries because it motored a world system of profit backed by the ruling race and class's state militias. This is like asking, Why don't Syrians stop getting bombed, or Why don't black or 'black site' prisoners just leave?"

B. Anthony Bogues, professor of humanities and critical theory, director of the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice at Brown University, in Providence, Rhode Island: "Kanye is a really good artist, but [his comments are] very difficult to take because it is based on a lot of stark ignorance. It is troublesome when somebody of that stature displays that kind of stark ignorance. This is not free-thought, he's not bringing anything new into this debate [on slavery]. What he's doing is, quite frankly, displaying ignorance about the way slavery worked, the way in which people of African descent were enslaved and about those actual legacies, and how those legacies continue to structure the life of many African American's today.... He's simply talking a lot of nonsense."

Example #1: Example #2: Don Lemon to Kanye: Pick up a history book

CNN, Published on May 2, 2018

CNN's Don Lemon said of Kanye West's comments on slavery, "Kanye needs to realize it's not a binary choice: you can remember your history, and you can also achieve. It doesn't have to hold you there."

Example #2: Finds Kanye West's Comments About Slavery Harmful | Good Morning Britain

Good Morning Britain, Published on May 2, 2018 responds to Kanye West's recent comments suggesting slavery was a choice.

Example #3: Stephen A. Smith strongly reacts to Kanye West's slavery comments on TMZ | First Take | ESPN

ESPN, Published on May 4, 2018

First Take's Stephen A. Smith strongly reacts to Kanye West's slavery comments on TMZ.
First Take's cast member Max Kellerman is the second commenter in this video.

Example #4: Kanye West: The Backlash | TMZ Live

TMZLive, Published on May 3, 2018

Kanye's rant has got some people talking.

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