There’s an African proverb that states, “It is better to be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” I cannot SPEAK to Kanye West’s state of mind. That is not my field of study or expertise, so I would never be so foolish as to offer an opinion on that matter. I will say his recent, (and by recent I mean the last decade), comments, tweets, and antics are disturbing and foolish. And, if I were a person that knew him personally, I’d seek help on his behalf.
In the past few days, we’ve seen him donning the MAGA hat in a loving embrace with music execs Lyor Cohen and Lucian Grainge; tweeting about his love of Trump and disapproval of Obama’s impact on Chicago, and release a track where T.I. is handing him his face against his rudimentary lyrics about trying to change the covertly racist basis behind the mantra “Make America Great Again.” None of which surprised many of us or caused us to be more alarmed than we already were. We recognize that he seeks attention of any kind and is a media mogul. But, his statements on TMZ yesterday about slavery being a choice of our ancestors because of its longevity are evidence of his mercurial mentality. Thankfully, TMZ’s Van Lathan, the hero of the day in Black America, shut his ignorance down with the retort:
“I actually don’t think you’re thinking anything. I think what you’re doing right now is actually the absence of thought…. there is fact, and real-world, real-life consequence behind everything that you just said. And while you are making music and being an artist and living the life that you’ve earned by being a genius, the rest of us in society have to deal with these threats to our lives. We have to deal with the marginalization that has come from the 400 years of slavery that you said, for our people, was a choice.”
Choices are privileges of freedom. The most egregious effect of our enslavement was the captivity of our minds. It was deliberate, effective, and pervasive. It was not a result of our weakness, but rather a concomitant consequence of sinister stratagems. Reading “The Book of Negroes” by Lawrence Hill or “Roots” by Alex Haley will offer an understanding about the forced docility of our predecessors. Our assumptions of our would – be actions had we lived during those four centuries are solely based on our freedom to think for ourselves and then act upon those thoughts in present – day. They are not rooted in the reality of that time.
Further, the choice of life or death is for those that recognize they own their own lives. Most of our ancestors could not afford that thought. We read about the spectacular few, Harriet Tubman, Nat Turner, Denmark Vessey, that somehow miraculously asserted their autonomy in a quest for complete freedom, but we fail to acknowledge how those rebellious mavericks confounded the methodical expectations of slavery.
Stockholm Syndrome is as real and paralyzing as fear in the minds of those that are captive, but the term really should have been coined Plantation Pathology. Our ancestors in this foreign land, every last one of them, were stripped of choices and their very being. We cannot hold them to our standards of operation or even to those that somehow escaped being a mental hostage.
We must read more than we SPEAK; think more than we express, and stop allowing the value of scholasticism to be overshadowed by the misguidance of artistic genius. As much as we can credit Kanye for his contributions to artistry and our Twitter feeds, I can’t help but echo the closing sentiments of Mr. Lathan.
“Frankly, I’m disappointed, I’m appalled and, brother, I am unbelievably hurt by the fact that you have morphed into something, to me, that’s not real.”