Less than a week after igniting a media firestorm for flaunting a “Make America Great Again” hat and repeatedly proclaiming his love for polarizing President Donald Trump, Kanye West caused controversy Tuesday for implying that slavery was a “choice” for African-Americans during an interview on TMZ Live.
The comments emerged as West, 40, was outlining his decision to wear the infamous #MAGA baseball cap, which has become a hallmark of Trump’s political movement.
“It was really just my subconscious,” he explained. “It was a feeling I had. People were taught how to think, we’re taught how to feel. We don’t know how to think for ourselves, [and] we don’t know how to feel for ourselves. People say ‘Feel free,’ but they don’t really want us to feel free. I felt a freedom, first of all, doing something that everybody tells you not to do.”
Over the course of the conversation, during which he was accompanied by conservative commentator Candace Owens, the outspoken artist sounded off on the centuries African-Americans spent shackled in servitude.
“You hear about slavery for 400 years. For 400 years?! That sounds like a choice,” he said. “You were there for 400 years and it was all of y’all? 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…Prison is something that unites us as one race.”
The remark was initially met with stunned silence by members of the TMZ staff, including the outlet’s founder, Harvey Levin.
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TMZ staffer Van Lathan, who is African-American, called West to task for the comments.
“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,” Lathan argued. “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. Frankly, I’m disappointed, I’m appalled, and frankly, brother, I’m unbelievably hurt by the fact that you have morphed into something that, to me, is not real.”
West apologized to Lathan before the matter grew more heated. “Sorry I hurt you with my words,” said the star before embracing him in a hug.
The rapper further clarified his comments on Twitter, writing, “to make myself clear. Of course I know that slaves did not get shackled and put on a boat by free will.”
He continued, “if this was 148 years ago I would have been more like Harriet or Nat,” adding, “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.”
“The reason why I brought up the 400 years point is because we can’t be mentally imprisoned for another 400 years. We need free thought now. Even the statement was an example of free thought It was just an idea,” West wrote.
He added, “once again I am being attacked for presenting new ideas.”