Yesterday, Kanye West upped the ante of #KanyeGate2018 – because this nigga has been consistently problematic for the better part of the last 10 years – by stating that 400 years of chattel slavery sounds like a choice. While I generally opt out of arguments with niggas who refuse to read, I cannot help but be grossly frustrated and deeply offended by the notion – and the people who agree with it.
West and his defenders (both Black and other) support the ramblings from the Sunken Place as free thought. Putting aside the fact that his expressed sentiments are nothing more than the regurgitation of generations of antiblackness, there’s another reason these thoughts are free. They didn’t cost time spent reading, researching, or questioning the acquired knowledge through the process of critical thinking. These free thoughts weren’t subject to peer-review processes or a thesis/dissertation committee. They were built on labor of snatching a bit of truth and stretching it with a whole lot of lies. So fuck your free thoughts because real knowledge costs*.
What’s worse than West’s assertion that slavery was a choice is the host of Regular Black™ people who fixed their fingers and mouths to say that “Kanye has a point.”
I reckon these people are the same ones who think Killmonger is the true hero in Black Panther. The same people who won’t negotiate a salary at the bargaining table or leave miserable jobs are suddenly feeling stronger than their ancestors who were bred and died as slaves. People too scared to stand up to their abusive family members and establish boundaries for the sake of their emotional health. Women who refuse to leave broken relationships because they fear being alone more than being in emotional disrepair are suddenly stronger than the women in their bloodline who were raped, beaten, and torn from their children while yet alive. Men who frequently blame “the man” for keeping them down are suddenly feeling like they would have been strong enough to challenge and refuse chattel slavery.
Do you understand why you live with these fears and feelings of inferiority? It isn’t simply a choice. It’s a result of systemic oppression that has marked our existence in this country since we were first forced on its shores. If you aren’t consciously choosing to be afraid, what the fuck makes you believe that your ancestors could have just hit the unsubscribe button for slavery? Even when you do consciously choose to resist this programming, do you think white supremacy just rolls over and gives way to freedom? The survey of current violence against Black bodies at the hands of police, fragile white men, and gentrifyin’-ass white folks who call the police on the people that the neighborhood belongs to says I think the fuck not. There’s levels to this resistance shit.
As Damon Young of VSB said, our present existence and survival in this country is nothing short of a fucking miracle. These sentiments are what happens when you sanitize the history, barbarity, are inhumanity of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. We weren’t meant to live beyond the utility of our bodies. If our ancestors were truly weak, Black Americans would have died off less than a generation removed from slavery. My ancestors survived being beaten, their bodies bred like animals to reproduce, raped, assaulted, and mourning multiple egregious losses. Yet here we are as living, breathing legacies of the bodies, cultures, and lineage that Whiteness attempted to kill.
Internalized antiblackness is white supremacy’s goal for each of us. The more we buy into these lies of our ancestral inferiority, the more we’ll believe it about our current selves. White supremacy can only survive through the suppression of resistance, self-reliance, and self-realization of our strength. I know May is Mental Health Awareness month. Because of that, it is imperative that we don’t rush to armchair psychiatric diagnoses of his mental health. Mental illness, including grief from significant loss, shouldn’t be the go to rationalization for people’s actions. IF Kanye is mentally unwell, you can bet your bottom dollar that the illness is being brainwashed into believing that antiblackness will buy you a seat at the table – which is still not in the DSM-V.
Kanye has made and is making a deliberate choice to be antiblack in hopes of gaining access to White Privilege. West has decided that the accolades and acceptance of his own people is simply not enough. Kim Kardashian West is not to blame. Donda West’s death is not to blame. West prepared us for this breakup many moons ago: he got on and left our ass for a white girl named antiblackness. It’s time to cut our losses and move on.
*Before one of you calls me classist: I believe that knowledge can happen outside of classrooms. But it cannot happen without reading, checking sources, fact-checking, and engaging in community dialogue with others to sharpen your knowledge.