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Kanye West on Tuesday said 400 years of slavery was a “choice” for Black people, provoking a TMZ staffer to call the rapper out on his point of view and inciting yet another wave of criticism on social media.
“When you hear about slavery for 400 years—for 400 years? That sounds like a choice,” West said. “You was there for 400 years, and it’s all of y’all? It’s like we’re mentally in prison.”
Kanye West stirs up the TMZ newsroom over TRUMP, SLAVERY and FREE THOUGHT. There's A LOT more that went down ... and the fireworks are exploding on @TMZLive today. Check your local listings for show times. pic.twitter.com/jwVsJCMPiq— TMZ (@TMZ) May 1, 2018
The comment was too much for TMZ employee Van Lathan, who blasted West for not thinking before he speaks.
“Kanye, you’re entitled to your opinion, you’re entitled to believe whatever you want, but there is fact and real-world, real-life consequence behind everything you just said,” Lathan 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,” he added. “We have to deal with the marginalization that’s come from the 400 years of slavery that you said for our people was a choice.”
Tons of Twitter users were also incredulous at West’s remark.
Kanye West Tweaking....... I aint really care that he fw w/ trump cuz I dont look to entertainers for political opinions or commentary about social issues.. But his most recent Slavery Comment.. Nigga lost touch of reality.— DJ Akademiks (@IamAkademiks) May 2, 2018
The rhetoric used by Kanye West is one that’s echoed by white conservatives in an attempt to rewrite the effects of slavery on black Americans. It’s intended to minimize the struggle of a people’s fight for freedom & redemption by blaming them for the construction of society.— Simar (@sahluwal) May 2, 2018
You called slavery a choice, white people have been trying to tell us this for years, nothing new about what you said. Just disgusting coming from someone who has slave's blood running through their veins.— Jay Aye (@DoctorDiva51) May 1, 2018
Slavery. Was. NOT. A. CHOICE.— Mohamed Salih (@MohamedMOSalih) May 2, 2018
how to ruin your legacy in one week: a kanye west edition.— little buddy (@__LittleBuddy) May 1, 2018
West defended calling slavery a “choice” in a series of tweets Tuesday evening.
“The reason why I brought up the 400 years point is because we can’t be mentally imprisoned for another 400 years,” he wrote, adding “Once again I am being attacked for presenting new ideas.”
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— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) May 1, 2018
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— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) May 1, 2018
once again I am being attacked for presenting new ideas— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) May 1, 2018
The interview came the same day as the release of West’s 105-minute interview with Charlamagne Tha God, and slavery came up in that discussion, too.
West said the conversation about Harriet Tubman being featured on the $20 bill “was the moment that I wanted to use Bitcoin,” adding: “It’s like when you see all the slave movies. Why you gotta keep reminding us about slavery? Why don’t you show us—put Michael Jordan on a $20 bill.”
In his TMZ interview, West also said he struggled with an addiction to opioid painkillers in 2016 following a liposuction procedure.
Kris Seavers is the IRL editor for the Daily Dot. Her work has appeared in Central Texas publications, including Austin Monthly and San Antonio Magazine, and on NPR.