Enslaved Black People Were Too Dope For Ya’ll To Play Them Like This
I’m sure many of us are tired of hearing about Kanye West.
After all, since he decided to make his bromance with your president Twitter official, Rihanna took over as pope, and Trump pulled out of a deal that reduced Iran’s uranium stockpile by 98%. So perhaps, there are newer, bigger fish to fry.
But in the aftermath of last week’s social media circus of ‘free thought’, I have encountered a concerning number of black folks who think that Kanye, someone who proudly abstains from reading, had a valid point. And I’m writing this for ya’ll.
Because it’s especially fucked when it’s Black people spreading white supremacist ideologies as fact —but in every decade, a new prominent Black person rises to the task. And you guys run with it.
Kanye West said that slavery was a choice. Later, he clarified that he actually meant remaining enslaved for 400 years was a choice, which is not much better. And then, he said Black people are mentally enslaved, something something, free thought.
And while these beliefs aren’t popular in the Black community, that doesn’t make them unique. Enslaved Black people were described as docile, content, and incapable of formulating plans since slavery existed. It was one way that white people justified it. So Kanye isn’t analyzing slavery in some new or profound way, he’s just parroting old white supremacist ideologies.
And most importantly, he’s wrong because enslaved Black people woke up every single morning and thought, “fuck this shit.”
They noticed that their value to white people was in how much work they did — so they intentionally did less of it. Every day, they wondered, “in what unique ways can I create a financial burden for these people, while doing as little work as possible?” And then they did that.
They pretended to be pregnant, went on strike, got just sick enough to escape work, and damaged white people’s shit as much as possible. In public, they performed a version of blackness in which they were dumb, slow, and incompetent; in private, they were like, “those motherfuckers woulda thought I was plowing a field in an entire week.”
They created secret codes and elaborate systems for escape, and participated in hundreds of slave rebellions, until the entire system burned to the ground because it was no longer worth it. All of which Kanye would know if he would pick up a fucking book.
Kanye even posted a quote attributed to Harriet Tubman, although she never actually said that shit, which reads, “ I could have saved thousands — if only I’d been able to convince them they were slaves.”
It suggests that slaves were oblivious to their situation, rather than employing daily effort to escape enslavement and make white lives miserable. Which is how slavery went, in reality.
Kanye also brought us into the present by suggesting that we remain mentally enslaved today. He said, “there’s been more focus and more marches on whites killing blacks than kids in Chicago killing each other.”
Again, he is wrong. So many activists, organizations, public officials, and regular degular citizens focus on and march against violence in black communities. And they still find the time to tackle the way people of color are disproportionately targeted, killed, and imprisoned by the carceral state. Black time management is truly on-point.
I would also like to point out that black-on-black crime doesn’t actually exist.
The phrase black-on-black crime suggests that it is a unique evil, rather than an expression of the fact that criminals don’t travel to commit crimes. They do it in their own neighborhoods. And thanks to redlining and segregation, black people live near black people, white people live near white people, and every color in between lives near other people who look like them as well.
So, white people usually kill white people. At about the same rate, black people kill black people. All of that is just called ‘crime’, and poor people commit hella crimes, which would suggest that creating resources for lower-income people would be a better use of our time.
We could even talk about the fact that ‘pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps’ is a myth, that the American Dream is a hoax, and that social mobility is difficult for everyone.
But mostly, I think we should talk about how our search for mentally enslaved people should stop at any Black person who is willing to throw other Black people under the ‘victim mentality’ bus.
We should talk about how our textbooks have described enslaved black people as ‘workers’ rather than… well, enslaved black people; we should talk about teachers asking students to list positive elements of slavery, and school boards that voted to inadequately teach slavery’s role in the Civil War; we should talk about politicians like Ben Carson referring to enslaved Black people as ‘immigrants’ with dreams for their children, and politicians like Roy Moore suggesting that America was a better place during slavery because families were together.
And we should talk about how, in the context of all of those things, there are still people like Kanye West (and Donald Trump and some of ya’ll) who don’t read but claim their thoughts are ‘free’.