Brow Beat

Kanye Went on TMZ to Say That Slavery—Which, by Definition, Is Not a Choice—Was a Choice

Believe me, I’m so done with this too. Done watching the president and Republicans shamelessly co-opt dumb and extremely dangerous thoughts being spouted by one of the most influential artists of the past 15 years. Done with having to side-eye his celebrity friends for spreading misinformed rhetoric in order to defend him. Done with following his every move on Twitter. And most of all, I’m just done with Kanye West doing anything but putting out music.

But here we are. Another day in Yeezy Season 2018, another ignorant statement from Yeezy himself, this time not on his preferred platform of Twitter, but on, of all places, TMZ Live. In a montage of clips released on the site, West dropped in to chat with host Harvey Levin about being so appalled that people are still upset about slavery. An actual quote:

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? It’s like we’re mentally in prison. I like the word prison, because slavery goes too direct to the idea of blacks. It’s like slavery, Holocaust, Holocaust, Jews. Slavery is blacks. So prison is something that unites us as one race … the human race.

The idea that black American slavery was a choice on the part of the slaves themselves is one of many utterly preposterous historical myths that nonetheless persists into the 21st century. Also, preferring to use the term prison as a way of “unit[ing]” all races is rich, considering the highly disproportionate number of people of color in prison compared to their white counterparts. This shift from slavery to imprisonment has been famously chronicled in plenty of places, including a highly regarded and heavily cited 8-year-old best-seller, but considering West’s proud claims that he doesn’t read books, he probably missed the memo. Maybe he listens to podcasts?

Later in the TMZ montage, staffer Van Lathan called out West for his BS. “I think what you’re doing right now is actually the absence of thought … there is fact and real-world consequence behind everything you just said. While you are making music and being an artist … the rest of us in society have to deal with these threats to our lives.” A TMZ staffer standing in for all of us in this moment: That’s how far down we’ve come, folks.