Kanye West on May 1 took a disturbing turn when he started talking about slavery in the middle of a discussion about free thought. Apparently, Kanye believes that black people had a choice when they were torn from their homes, brought to America, and forced into hundreds of years of slavery. His strange statement sucked the breath out of the TMZ newsroom, and at least one staffer, Van Lathan, stood up to him when he was done.
“When you hear about slavery for 400 years, for 400 years? That sounds like a choice,” Kanye said on TMZ Live. “Like, you was there for 400 years, and it is all y’all? You know it’s like we are mentally in prison. I like the word prison because slavery goes to direct to the idea of blacks, it’s like slavery Holocaust — Holocaust is Jews, slavery is blacks. So prison is something that unites us as one race, blacks and whites being one race, that we are one, we are the human race.” Kanye later defended his point with the following tweets…
He then asked the newsroom, “Do you feel that I am feeling do you feel that I am being free and that I am thinking free?” A lot of people raised their hands. Van told Kanye, that while he recognizes and respects that he can “think free,” he’s still wrong about saying slavery was a choice.
“Ye, be Ye. Do you,” Van said. I actually don’t think you’re thinking anything. I think what you’re doing right now is actually the absence of thought. And the reason why I feel like that is, Kanye, you’re entitled to your opinion and you’re entitled to believe whatever you want. But there is fact in the real world, real life consequence behind everything you just said.
“While you are living your life, and being an artist, and making a living that you earned, the rest of us in society have to deal with these threats to our lives,” Van continued. “We have to deal with the marginalization that comes with the 400 years of slavery that you said for our people was a choice. Frankly, I’m offended, I’m appalled, and brother, I am unbelievably hurt by the fact that you have morphed into something that, to me, is not real.”
Kanye walked over to Van’s desk after that to apologize for hurting him, and give him a hug. It’s not just Van who was appalled by Kanye’s statement. On Twitter, people spoke out about their total shock and disappointment. “I don’t have the energy for nonsense but Kanye saying slavery was a choice reiterates my previous statements about how dangerous his trite, shallow ramblings are. He is not a free thinker. He is a free moron who doesn’t read,” author Roxane Gay tweeted. “Is Kanye running for president of the Sunken Place,” another person wrote.