Monday 23 July 2018

Backlash after Kanye says slavery was a 'choice'

Rapper Kanye West pictured with his wife Kim Kardashian West. Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images
Rapper Kanye West pictured with his wife Kim Kardashian West. Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

Isabel Togoh

Musician Kanye West's claim that 400 years of slavery was a "choice" has been heavily criticised as "insulting" and "harmful" by historians.

The rapper and fashion designer caused outrage during an interview with celebrity news outlet TMZ.

"When you hear about slavery for 400 years, 400 years? That sounds like a choice. Like, you was there for 400 years, and it's all of y'all? It's like we're mentally imprisoned," West (40) said.

Following a backlash, he defended his comment on Twitter as "an example of free thought" and said "we can't be mentally imprisoned for another 400 years".

But the comment went "a bridge too far", said Professor Manuel Barcia, a historian at the University of Leeds.

"He is basically ignoring the past to look at the future so he's trying to clean sweep the past of African Americans, which I think is obviously very insensitive and wrong," Mr Barcia said.

"Families were split, many of them got killed, the slavery they faced across the Atlantic was far more brutal than what they faced in Africa.

"The transatlantic slave trade was a crime. Voluntary for whom? People didn't sell themselves into slavery, they were sold," he added.

An estimated 12.5 million African people were taken by European traders against their will from throughout Africa and transported across the Atlantic.

Dr Andrea Livesey, lecturer in slavery at the University of Bristol, said it was incorrect to assume that slaves were "mentally enslaved" - many of them took on acts of resistance as well as engaging in revolts against slave owners, such as Nat Turner's rebellion in Virginia in 1831.

Irish Independent

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