Fresh from embracing Donald Trump as a fellow “dragon energy,” rap star and possible 2020 presidential candidate Kanye West inserted his foot firmly into his mouth this week. In an interview with TMZ, West said that slaves made a “choice” to stay in slavery. Now West is walking back those comments.
When asked by TMZ about his MAGA hat, Kanye responded, “It was really just my subconscious. It was a feeling I had. You know, like people were taught how to think, were taught how to feel. We don’t know how to think for ourselves. We don’t know how to feel for ourselves. People say, ‘Feel free,’ but they don’t really want us to feel free, and I felt a freedom. First of all, just doing something that everybody tells you not to do.”
“I just love Trump,” Kanye continued, “That’s my boy. You know, it’s like so many rappers, you look at a video of Snoop Dogg loving Trump, but then he gets in the office and don’t love him. Trump is one of rap’s favorite people.”
From there, the conversation continued into independent thought, lately a favorite topic of West's.
“When you hear about slavery for 400 years – for 400 years! – that sounds like a choice,” Kanye said later. “Like you were there for 400 years and it’s all of y’all? You know like, it’s like we’re meant to be in prison. I like the word ‘prison’ because ‘slavery’ goes too direct to the idea of blacks. It’s like slavery and Holocaust. Holocaust is Jews. Slavery is blacks. So, prison is something that unites us as one race, blacks and whites being one race. We’re the human race.”
The interview became heated after this comment when Van Lathan, a TMZ correspondent took issue with Kanye’s history lesson. Kanye stormed off the set, yelling, “Do you feel that I’m feeling? That I’m being free? That I’m thinking free?”
“I actually don’t think that you’re thinking anything,” Lathan answered. “I think that what you’re doing right now is actually the absence of thought.”
Earlier in the day, West had criticized the choice of Harriet Tubman for the $20 bill in another interview with Charlamagne The God. “It’s like all the slave movies, why you gotta [sic] keep reminding of us slavery? Put Michael Jordan on the $20 bill,” Kanye said. “Certain icons are just too far in the past.”
The left’s reaction was swift and harsh with numerous celebrities and politicians denouncing Kanye’s comments on slavery. The criticism piled on last week’s attacks on West for his admiration of Donald Trump. There was little reaction to the comments from Republicans who had previously applauded West for his support of President Trump.
West walked back his comments on Twitter. “To make myself clear. Of course, I know that slaves did not get shackled and put on a boat by free will,” he wrote. “My point is for us to have stayed in that position even though the numbers were on our side means that we were mentally enslaved.”
Ironically, Kanye undermined his own argument with his criticism of Harriet Tubman. While slavery was not a conscious choice for most slaves, some, like Tubman, made the choice to escape. Tubman escaped slavery in Maryland in 1849 and returned to rescue her family. She kept returning to rescue dozens more slaves via the Underground Railroad. After the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, she escorted her “passengers” all the way to Canada. When the Civil War began, Tubman worked for the Union Army as an armed scout and spy, eventually becoming the first woman to lead an armed expedition.
Kanye West is a troubled figure. In the interview with Charlamagne, he admitted to a previous addiction to opioids resulting from a liposuction surgery. He also admitted that he is currently on medication. It is possible that his current erratic behavior is chemically-induced. In any case, regardless of West’s affinity for Trump, it seems less and less likely that he will represent the minority conservative role model that Republicans hoped for.
Originally published on The Resurgent