By: Amyre Dysard
Kanye West made headlines when he seemingly said that slavery was a choice. Then he made things worse by saying that he is “sorry for the people who felt let down by that moment.”
In May, West did an interview at the TMZ headquarters when he was apparently ‘off meds.’
“When you hear about slavery for 400 years. For 400 years?! That sounds like a choice,” said
West. The comment made social media go on an uproar. Multiple celebrities including Meek Mill, Chris Brown and Ava DuVernay have spoken out against West. Black twitter even went as far as to create the hashtag #IfSlaveryWasAChoice. Tweets made jokes about the musician’s comments by saying that slaves could call in sick days, apply for other plantations, or just flat out say no.
But there is more to West’s statement. He went on to say that “You was there for 400 years and it’s all of y’all. It’s like we’re mentally in prison.” In a poll conducted by WBLK 93.7 in New York, 52.11% of people agreed that slaves could have changed something in 400 years. Only 36.97% of participants said they believed that Calvert was not a choice while 5.88% were undecided.
In an interview with Tidal’s Rap Radar, Will Smith stated that he loves that Kanye is “willing to take the smashdown in order to push ideas. He’s making people think.”
So let’s think about it a little deeper. There’s a question that few have asked: Is there some validity to West’s massively frowned upon comment?
Of course, slaves didn’t literally choose to be taken from their motherland to a foreign one to be owned and beaten. But in a psychological way, did slaves choose to stay in a shackled state? West further elaborated on the topic in an interview with The New York Times.
“I said the idea of sitting in something for 400 years sounds like a choice to me, I never said it’s a choice. I never said slavery itself, like being shackled in chains, was a choice,” he said.
When slaves were shipped to the United States, they had a different dialect, a different religion, and a different culture. They were suddenly and harshly stripped from their way of life. Slaves were taught the customs and language of the people that owned them. They were taught to worship a deity whose skin does not match their own.
Slaves were taught that white people were superior. They were to smile, act happy, and not
have free thought. They were conditioned. The average number of slaves per plantation was 20 by 1830. However, there were plantations with hundreds of slaves.
The plantation owner by Col. Joshua John Ward owned 1,130 slaves. This being said, is it hard
to imagine that slaves could have rallied together to overcome their masters?
Of course there were some slaves that tried to escape. For example, the Stono Rebellion of
1739, the largest documented slave rebellion.The rebellion started off with about 20 slaves that were headed towards St. Augustine, FL where there was Spanish rule and no slavery.
Members of the rebellion raided houses, killed their occupants, and burned the remainder.
They gained more slaves along the way and ended with a group of about 100.
There’s a problem with this and other examples. There were slaves that chose not to participate and some even stayed behind to help hide and protect their masters.
In this sense, was slavery not a choice? Sadly, many of the rebels were rallied and killed. Perhaps more could have made it to freedom if the rest of the slaves had joined forces with the rebels. Unfortunately we’ll never know. Even Harriet Tubman couldn’t convince every slave she came across to follow her through the Underground Railroad. Some that did were tempted to return and were only stopped by Tubman’s protest and handgun.
Time and time again slaves have chosen the safety of the plantation over the need to be free.
Maybe Kanye’s not too crazy after all.
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