I Guess He Forgot Where He Came From: Kanye West Is Wrong About Slavery Being A Choice

My grandfather John Dye's grave, Civil War Vet, grandfather Sam Clayton, grandfather Oliver Stanley, owner of 60 acres of land in Warm Spring, Georgia, uncle Rev Wesley J. Gaines, taught himself to read while enslaved, author and a founder of Morris Brown College, grandfather Alec Daniels' grave and grandmother Frances Allison

There are a lot of things I ignore daily promoted in the media and in pop culture. My sanity is important and I'm not easily swayed by obvious distractions that make the weekly headlines. That included Uncle Kanye "What More Could You Ask For, The International Asshole" Kardashian's support of Donald Trump. But it was this past week that this fool decided to bring my ancestors into the mix and that's where it all went to hell. The unfortunate Chicago emcee and producer went on a rant via his Twitter account stanning out for y'alls president and followed up with a TMZ interview stating that American chattel slavery sounded like "a choice". He later back peddled and pussy popped onto a more "intellectual" meaning of his statement:

Photo: Twitter
Let me tell y'all about stunt queen Kanye West before we get into the (vegan) meat of things. Dude has always been an outcast, but he's also a contrarian on purpose. He has somewhat of a unique experience growing up with a former Black Panther father and a University of Chicago professor as a mother. He had a love for hip-hop but never truly fit in and became the preppy nigga surrounded by hood niggas when he teamed up with Rocafella. That was his shtick. Looking back at his career, I do believe he has always been genuine about a lot of things he's said and done, but he also knew he could use being "different" to his advantage.

What I feel Kanye is doing now is leaning on being a "misunderstood artistic genius" to pump out controversy for his upcoming album. Despite this being an obvious and quite foolish PR stunt, his presentation is dangerous. I can't even specifically state that it's dangerous "nowadays" in the current Trump era because the culture of anti-Blackness has always been affluent in American (and international) culture despite the shock that "racism still exists in 2018."
The protracted and intensive atrocities of slavery have a lingering effect and the pain of times past continues to call out from the genetic memories of those whose ancestors survived the test of slavery.- Na'im Akbar, Breaking the Chains of Psychological Slavery
There's a very limited systemic educational system and culture in the U.S. It's based in regurgitative, repetitive methods that are only effective in test taking and not in critical thought. With that being stated, seeing people agree wholeheartedly with Kanye has led me to believe that many people have very limited knowledge of the dept and historical context that has made up not only American chattel slavery of Africans, but also the slavery of Africans in the Caribbean, South America, and in other places.

It seems to me that with this "slavery was a choice" narrative, muthafu....people....think that chattel slavery was just chalked up to picking cotton or sugar cane and singing "Wade In the Water" at the steps of the big house hoping White Jesus would fly down in his chariot from the sky to take the slave folk to heaven. To state that "slavery was a choice" dehumanizes people. It undermines the trauma called Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome coined by Dr. Joy DeGruy Leary endured by these people. I added an emphasis on the word people because I think some of us have forgotten, or are unaware that these "slaves" we're human beings with feelings dealing with unimaginable pain. So much pain, that a 2016 epigenetics study from Dr. Rachel Yehuda showed that trauma from slavery can be passed down via DNA. (Remember Kendrick Lamar's lyrics in "DNA"? - "I got power, poison, pain, and joy inside my DNA.")

slave scar
Photo: Getty Images
These people who were raped, beaten, forced into performing incest, had their families striped away from them, starved, used in medical experiments. Dehumanized in every way. Kanye was right about mental enslavement, but undermines the vastness of it and the intricacies. The psychological portion of African enslavement was core in breaking down enslaved Africans mentally and spiritual. Coupled in with fear tactics such as public beatings of rebellious slaves on plantations, this mortifying experience would be one of many reasons Africans remain enslaved. Although the term originated in 1974, many enslaved Blacks also dealt with Stockholm Syndrome where they felt a love for their masters despite being in an atrocious position.

This psychological factor seems to not be properly or popularly discussed as physical trauma is. Kanye’s corn shuckling rhetoric also ignores the many acts of passive and active resistance slaves partook in against slave owners from rebellions to poisoning slave masters. In my opinion, Kanye and others have bought into the shame of being a descendant of slaves thinking their ancestors were "weak" while ignoring the grave psychological breaking that was passed down generationally. It doesn't make sense for the good sis to mention being "mentally enslaved" while ignoring how this element played into some slaves not fighting back.

"Slavery sounds like a choice" frames a victim blaming narrative and takes the focus off of a global anti-Black system that has been in formation for more than 400 years (as quiet as it's kept). Hence why many of us are on social media arguing about whether or not slavery was a choice and ignoring the real culprit. To contextualize this in a smaller and more individualistic frame, it takes the focus off the demonic brutality performed by slave masters. It's so easy to claim what you would have done if you were a slave through a smart phone. Which is funny to me seeing that many of us have the luxuries our ancestors would’ve dreamed of and won’t bust a grape in a fruit fight when it comes to killer cops. But you would've been a whole beast if you were a slave? You can't even walk up a flight of stairs without losing your breath like Destiny's Child, but you would've ran yo' ass all the way to New York from South Carolina?

Image result for chile please gif
We don't believe you, you need more people.
Can we also hone in on factors like being separated from already broken families, physical ailments, slave catchers, snitching-to-massa-House-Negroes, and other complexities as to why slaves may have has issues escaping slavery? Although the infamous 1712 Willie Lynch letter is reported to have been a hoax, the theory of causing division among enslaved people was active as it continues to be today. The  psychological scars of slavery were never healed. But let y'all tell it, it would've been easy to "fight back". These circumstances are results of a system set in place.

What Kkkanye is exhibiting is not “free thinking”, it’s a speech from a straight up extermination campaign. If you do not understand the depth and danger in his rhetoric in accordance to the present Trump Era (although racism has always been prevalent, even when cleverly concealed), your understanding of a global anti-Black system is shot from the historical premise reaching far beyond "400 years" all the way into present time. There is a consistent push to erase not only Blackness but also to diminish the severity and the economic, political, and social foundation of America that was chattel slavery.
The "trauma" in question is slavery, not as institution or even experience, but as collective, form of remembrance that grounded the identity-formation of a people. There is a difference between trauma as it effects individuals and as a cultural process. - Ron Eyeman, Cultural Trauma: Slavery and the Formation of African American Identity 
Look at textbook companies like McGraw-Hill who have attempted to label chattel slaves as “indentured servants”, “workers”, and “immigrants”. When a figure as iconic as Kanye comes out and co-signs this notion that “slavery was a choice”, and people jump up to agree with him, that indirectly gives an okay for these powers to push this agenda. This type of speech reinforces the stereotype of the "happy slave" narrative as suggested in books like A Birthday Surprise for George Washington. It indirectly gives people the gall to continue to minimize the impact of slavery.

"Well, maybe if the slaves fought back there wouldn't have been any slavery in the first place. They chose to be there."

Chile. I can hear it now.

I see many folk on social media in disbelief that Kanye is the son of a professor and a Black Panther and showing his ass in the most "coonish" way. His stance upon first stepping into the hip-hop arena was somewhat pro-Black with songs like “Never Let Me Down", “All Falls Down”, "Diamonds from Sierra Leone", and “Crack Music”. Don’t ever get it f-d up. Being pro-Black does not, has not, and will never erase internalized self hatred for some people. Soon as Kanye got where he needed to be, all of his "fight the power" talk was dropped (not that he was ever on some straight up Dead Prez ish to begin with). I mean, he did dub himself the "Louis Vuitton don". As quiet as it’s kept, some rappers picked up the pro-Black shtick as a gimmick just like gangsta rappers do. Kanye should know better, and despite his rhetoric being cloaked in “free thought”, dude knows exactly what he’s doing. Publicity stuntin' and cuttin' a jig for Massa Trump.

Image result for kanye west trump
Photo: Seth Wenig, File/AP Images
Kanye broke the number one rule and got high off his own supply. He bought into his hype to the point of going bankrupt. As a Black girl from Chicago, Kanye's music and artistry will always be super important to my childhood and my introduction into hip-hop culture. I'll probably still rap every word to "Get 'Em High" like it's 2004. While I understand the circumstances that surround and have created this troubled artist, he still must be called out and his rhetoric concerning slavery shut down because it's extremely dangerous in the grand scheme of systemic racism.

Despite them being in bondage, the ancestors of the descendants of slaves were strong, intelligent, resilient people but at the same token, unjustly traumatized, and brutalized. This destroys the concept of the "super Negro" (ie. the "strong Black woman" trophe) and in return rehumanizes the African in support of the fear-based trauma experience. The captives taught themselves how to read, they escaped plantations, practiced their traditional culture in secret, but were also degraded. Both polar narratives can coexist, especially since people aren't running around stating that victims of any other inhumane atrocities like the Holocaust "chose" to be in said position(s). This dichotomy also exists in modern Black culture within the ideologies of Black excellence and Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome and creates a parallel between the past and present. There's a huge problem in our society with dehumanizing the pain and traumatizing experiences of Black folk and Kanye's stance on chattel slavery is no different. Play with YO' ancestors, don't play with mine.

Suggested Readings:

Ben Carson Refers to Slaves as ‘Immigrants’ in First Remarks to HUD Staff

#StopAskingPermission: The happy slave narrative ends with Bill O'Reilly

How The Legacy of Slavery Affects the Mental Health of Black Americans Today

How Slavery Helped Build a World Economy

Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome

Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present

Breaking the Chains of Psychological Slavery

Destruction of Black Civilization: Great Issues of a Race from 4500 B.C. to 2000 A.D.

Epigenetics & Inheritance

Cultural Trauma: Slavery and the Formation of African American Identity

Key Terms To Research:

Magical Negro, happy slave narrative, Strong Black Woman, Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, Stockholm Syndrome, epigenetic inheritance, fear based trauma, cultural trauma

What's your take on Kanye's comments about slavery being a "choice"? Share your opinion below!

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