“When you hear about slavery for 400 years…for 400 years? That sound like a choice. Like, you was there for 400 years, and it’s all of y’all?”
WARNING: Some of y’all ain’t gone like what I’m about to say. My advice? Prove me wrong.
If you haven’t heard by now, Kanye West caused quite an uproar in the entertainment world and beyond last week with his remarks on TMZ regarding slavery. Black social media clapped back with almost surgical precision. I’m 100% certain that #IfSlaveryWasAChoice will go down in history as one of the funniest and most vicious hashtags in social media history.
The jist of our revolt against Kanye’s statement is rooted not only in our reverence for our ancestors, but also in our acknowledgement of the fact that our foremothers and forefathers suffered the most brutal and destructive holocaust in the history of humanity. THAT ISN’T UP FOR DEBATE OR COMPARISON. It was so complete, so effective, and so far-reaching, that the era of chattel slavery only covers the first half of it. “Emancipation” did little to slow the tsunami of institutional racism in our ancestors’ lives. Jim Crow and mass incarceration ensued over the next 150 years, and continues today.
My initial reaction to Kanye’s words were like most of my brothers and sisters: disgust at the idea that he would even try to push that narrative. How dare you disrespect our people like that, bruh? They endured pain you couldn’t even imagine with the hope that someone like you could make a better way for yourself and our people! I couldn’t accept that he actually said that. My Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds were convulsing with our people up in arms, calling him out on his BS and defending our honor. My initial reaction was also admittedly rooted in emotion.
My next thought, after gathering my emotions, was that of the famous Kilmonger quote from Black Panther. We were all so gung ho and Black power-minded when that movie came out in February. We were hollerin’ bout being buried in the ocean with our ancestors. What changed?
The shit got me to thinkin’…
400 years of slavery. Is it really a choice? Maybe I’m just to “woke” for my own good to even think that. This can’t be life…
I needed context. So I decided to watch the interview for myself.
I hopped on Youtube and clicked on Kanye’s interview with Charlemagne ThaGod. I was about 40 minutes in when my wife walked in. I told her what I was watching.
“Well, that isn’t even the right interview,
you fat ass! Why are you sitting on the couch anyway and yo feet smell like they been hotboxin” in a bag of farts and stale greens?” she said.
That 40 minutes of the wrong interview was all the clarification I needed. He talked about generational wealth, buying land, and building his own community. Those are some of the things that many of our most celebrated Black leaders have talked about and tried to implement. I didn’t agree with EVERYTHING he said, but he actually made some sense with that shit right there. Maybe ‘Ye might be on to something here…
Then I pulled up the TMZ interview. And damn, ‘Ye. Just…damn.
Instead of advancing a golden idea that could have given us lasting, renewable energy to fight the institutional racism that hinders our economic, mental, and spiritual process, he talked about his ideas on “free thought” and “loving everybody.” He got so emotional and off-code that he completely blew his chance at flashing the “genius” he brags about. He went on to trot out the idiotic notion that we don’t care about our people getting killed until White people kill us. He totally ignores those among us who risk their lives daily rescuing our children from dangerous environments and situations, and the millions of our (and us) parents who spend every waking moment of their lives working, hoping, and praying our sons and daughters don’t become statistics in a world that thrives off of us becoming exactly that: statistics.
I love everybody. But I love myself more. And I express my love for self by distancing myself as best I can from people that mean me harm.
I credit Van Lathan for standing up and defending us against Kanye’s assault on the perceived lack of effort on our part to curb violence in our communities. He made an impassioned defense for our ongoing struggle. These are the type of hard conversations we need to have within our communities in order to move forward and prosper.
But even after all that, I still needed to answer the question for myself: Was chattel slavery a choice? Was the slavery we faced after the Emancipation Proclamation and Jim Crow segregation a choice? Is the slavery we face today, of mass incarceration and capitalism, a choice?
Before I answer those questions, let me clarify some things:
First of all, I’m not naïve enough to believe that our ancestors GLADLY accepted shackles and imprisonment from people they barely knew. We didn’t go quietly into subjugation. Capture and forced enslavement ARE NOT choices.
Secondly, I’m not a Black Conservative. I didn’t vote for the current president, nor did I vote for any of the Republicans currently in any office, local, State, or Federal. Hell, I haven’t voted in two years, because I no longer subscribe to the whole “lesser of two evils” argument. Both major parties are out to screw us, so I’m not about to decide how I’d like my screwing to happen. You won’t catch me in a MAGA hat any time sooner or later.
Thirdly, I don’t hate my people. If you haven’t figured that out after reading my posts, go play in freeway traffic. Better yet, I’ve got oceanfront property in Arizona to sell you.
I love y’all. #BlessedBeTheGrind
Now here’s what you REALLY came to see…