UPDATE: After receiving widespread backlash for stating slavery was "a choice" in a bizarre TMZ interview, Kanye West is now attempting damage control — months later.
Speaking to Chicago's WGCI-FM on Wednesday, West said, "I don't know if I properly apologized for how that slave comment made people feel. So I want to take this moment right now to say ... I'm sorry for people who felt let down by that moment."
Yet West's tearful interview and promise to present a "new Kanye West" going forward comes three-months-too-late. The rapper shouldn't have needed all summer to realize how the extent of his comments would negatively affect the black community; he should have immediately understood following the interview the devastating impact his remark had.
While West seems to pin the blame on his bipolar disorder diagnosis, his comments cannot be excused by mental health. Frankly, this is not a problem of his mental state, as plenty of people with mental health issues are able to speak coherently and without controversy. Rather, this is demonstrative of West's misunderstanding of what it means to be a public figure and how he is consistently failing African-Americans as a community voice.
Kanye West may be a phenomenal rapper, however, in recent days, he has been making one blunder after another — and this time around, he has crossed the line.
Aconversation with Harvey Levin of TMZ was supposed to center around West wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat. However, what was supposed to be an attempt to recover his image after he praised Donald Trump, ended up in West making an even bigger gaffe by insulting the African-American community in the worst way possible — which is extremely ironic and sad considering the rapper himself is black and famously said George W. Bush "doesn't care about black people."
While explaining his stance on Trump and "free thinking," West suddenly and unexpectedly diverted into talking about black slavery.
“When you hear about slavery for 400 years,” he said. “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.”
There is a prevailing myth against the Africa-American people that their slave ancestors were docile and compliant, which explained their failure to rebel against their white masters. It is shockingly believed by a few black people as well, if West’s words are anything to go by. The theory is complete baloney, of course.
People of African descent were brought from African to the United States during the 17th-19th centuries and sold as slaves. Mounting a rebellion was extremely difficult as white people greatly outnumbered slaves, who were forbidden from learning how to read and write and isolated from each other. Even in states like South Carolina, where white people only made 47 percent of the population by the early 19th century, slaves without guns could not revolt against their armed masters.
Nevertheless, they did try. Many of them attempted to run away. Fleeing was very difficult as black people had to leave their families behind and if caught, could face torture and even death. Still, an estimated 100,000 slaves managed to escape their white oppressors in the 19th century.
Black slaves also tried to sabotage their white owners’ property or set fire to buildings.
In fact, thousands of slaves committed suicide during the horrific 18th century transatlantic slave journeys. Some men and women chose to starve themselves to death rather than become slaves. Many historians have written of slaves jumping off from slaver ships into the sea, while holding hands. Some managed to get their hands on guns or knives and would turn the weapons on the crew, and, more often than not, on themselves.
In fact, scholars have found as many as 313 instances of revolts in the history of African-American slavery. The five greatest revolts in America are the Stone Rebellion of 1739, The New York City Conspiracy of 1741, Gabriel’s Conspiracy in 1800, German Coast Uprising of 1811 and Nat Turner’s Rebellion of 1831.
However, it seems, Kanye West is not aware of any of these things.
Immediately after his faux pas, West — who has been on a "free thinking" kick where any criticism against him is perceived as an attack on his free thought — was schooled by Van Lathan from the TMZ Newsroom.
“I actually don’t think you’re thinking anything. I think what you’re doing right now is actually the absence of thought,” said Nathan. “And the reason why I feel like that is because, Kanye, you’re entitled to your opinion, you’re entitled to believe whatever you want, but there is real life consequence behind everything that you just said. 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 400 years of slavery that you said for our people was a choice. Frankly, I’m disappointed. I’m appalled. And, brother, I’m unbelievably hurt by the fact that you have morphed into something that, for me, is not real.
There has NEVER been a moment in history when Black people didn't resist slavery. Some did it by jumping off ships. Some killed masters. Some ran away. Some did it through everyday forms of resistance. Slave masters didn't retire. Our resistance led to our freedom.— Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill) May 2, 2018
Kanye’s rhetoric continues to fuel the racist right-wing folks who believe that black people are responsible for their oppression.— deray (@deray) May 1, 2018
Kanye is a dangerous caricature of an “free thinking” black person in America. Frankly, I am disgusted and I’m over it. Also (I can’t believe I have to say this): Slavery was far from a choice.— Symone D. Sanders (@SymoneDSanders) May 1, 2018
me in 2005: im so proud of kanye for telling the truth abt george bush not caring about black people. it needed to be said.— Tracy Boomeisha-Ann Clayton (@brokeymcpoverty) May 1, 2018
me in 2018: im so proud of the black tmz dude for telling the truth abt kanye not caring about black people. it needed to be said.
West later tried to put a bandage on his words by claiming he was misinterpreted.
the reason why I brought up the 400 years point is because we can't be mentally imprisoned for another 400 years. We need free thought now. Even the statement was an example of free thought It was just an idea— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) May 1, 2018
we are programmed to always talk and fight race issues. We need to update our conversation.— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) May 1, 2018
if this was 148 years ago I would have been more like Harriet or Nat— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) May 1, 2018
They cut out our tongues so we couldn't communicate to each other. I will not allow my tongue to be cut— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) May 1, 2018
to make myself clear. Of course I know that slaves did not get shackled and put on a boat by free will— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) May 1, 2018
However, the damage has already been done.
Banner/Thumbnail credit: REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo