American rapper Kanye West’s latest controversial remarks have angered not just the usual Liberal-minded mob, but also his fellow African-Americans. After all, he wasn’t just showing his love for his “boy” American President Donald Trump, he was analysing black slavery – something some people think he is no authority on.
During a recent interview on the US entertainment site TMZ, West suggested that African Americans who were brought to America starting in the 17th to the 19th century “chose” to remain slaves:
“When you hear about slavery for 400 years … for 400 years? That sounds like a choice.”
It’s not surprising why his remarks would attract outrage. Slavery may have been abolished in America in 1865, but segregation only officially became outlawed all over the US in 1964. That’s just half a century ago. Meaning, blacks were not allowed to mix with white folks before that. One can only imagine the emotional scars that still haunt some African Americans until now.
The problem with some people who were quick to react against West’s remarks is they were too angry to try and understand where he was coming from. They simply dismiss his explanation or his succeeding remarks trying to clarify himself. He did add that “We’re mentally imprisoned.”.
As someone who grew up free and who enjoys a lot of privileges, an outspoken West probably found it baffling why black people back then didn’t take matters into their own hands and fight back against their oppressors much, much earlier.
I can understand where West is coming from. With the popularity of pop movies like Black Panther where black people are portrayed as possessing equal or even much more advanced technology and physical prowess than other ethnic groups, a lot of people like West are more enlightened nowadays and realise that the shackles attached to the black slaves centuries ago were in their minds, not on their bodies – they were psyched to think of themselves as lower class and not worthy to be anything else other than slaves. He made this point in his subsequent Twitter posts:
“We need to have open discussions and ideas on unsettled pain… to make myself clear. Of course I know that slaves did not get shackled and put on a boat by free will.”
“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.”
Those who say that West’s remarks are stupid and disrespectful to those who suffered in the hands of their white masters are narrow-minded. His views may not be popular, but it doesn’t mean he is wrong. It doesn’t mean he is right either. The point is, there needs to be a continued discussion about issues especially since a lot of African Americans still hold grudges over their forefathers’ treatment and a lot still believe that the marginalisation of subsequent generations is a direct result of black segregation, which was only recently-outlawed.
No one has a monopoly on the truth. All ideas should be respected, even those we think are stupid. Our thinking processes should evolve so humanity can evolve. Not all blacks are right, just like not all whites are right. Not all blacks are wrong, just like not all whites are wrong. Just because you don’t agree with West doesn’t mean he is wrong. He actually has a strong point because the reason why African Americans are free today is because of the African Americans who fought for freedom and the white folks who helped them get it. All West is saying is, they could have fought earlier, like maybe 350 years earlier or something.
Of course it is easy to say it now in hindsight, but West is trying to promote the idea that African Americans cannot play victim forever especially since the US government has made concessions to promote equal opportunity for all regardless of colour. It’s all up to each individual now to make something of his life. Everyone in America whether black, white, yellow or brown can do whatever they want to succeed.
As a Filipino, I can relate with West’s views on slavery. I feel that way about millions of Filipinos today. Filipinos also have a history of being enslaved by their colonisers. The Spaniards occupied the Philippines for 300 years and treated Filipinos like second-class citizens. The fact that the name Philippines came from King Philip II of Spain means Filipinos can’t escape our former masters and will be reminded of their “generosity” in putting one name to the 7,000 islands they “discovered”.
To this day, a lot of Filipinos still wear mental shackles and are still willing to be slaves to people who take advantage of them. We may be free from our former colonisers, but Filipinos still choose to be slaves to members of the Philippine oligarchy. Some of these “elite” were descendants of Spanish settlers and their native allies. A lot of Filipino voters today vote for the same bozos over and over even when it’s quite obvious public funds are being syphoned into the politicians’ personal pockets.
A classic example of this are the supporters of the Liberal Party. They idolise members of the political party particularly land owners like the Aquinos and the Roxases. They think they are God’s gift to the Filipino people despite the criminal negligence they committed when they were in power for years. This is modern-day slavery and is no different to the mental slavery West was talking about. It has kept the Philippines backward for hundreds of years.
All those who condemn West for his unpopular views are similar to those who condemned people like us who criticised the mentality that kept some Filipinos beholden to members of the oligarchy for decades. It will take time for them to change their views especially if they refuse to listen.