In a recent appearance on TMZ Live in Los Angeles, West made a reference to 400 years of slavery being a choice.
Kanye said slavery was a choice huh? So, so disrespectful.— Blair LM Kelley (@profblmkelley) May 1, 2018
Haven’t watched the whole Kanye event today, working my way up to it. I will say, that a milder version of the “slavery is a choice” argument is made by uninformed people all the time. I’ve had young men in my courses say “they never would have enslaved me.”— Blair LM Kelley (@profblmkelley) May 2, 2018
Assistant Dean of Interdisciplinary Studies, Dr. Blair LM Kelley, told ABC11 by phone Wednesday that she did not intend for her tweets to go viral.
People aren’t aware of the alienation of people ripped from their homes, abused, walked hundreds of miles across Africa, sometimes so far they ceased understanding the language spoken around them...— Blair LM Kelley (@profblmkelley) May 2, 2018
People don’t know the brutality of the slave castles were people were held on the coasts, branded still holding out hope for escape, or reconnection with loved one....— Blair LM Kelley (@profblmkelley) May 2, 2018
Yeezy's comments come on the heels of his support for President Donald Trump and criticizing Blacks for being Democrats. West's TMZ Live comments have been, at the least, a breeding ground for meaningful debate, and at the worst, ignorant and offensive -- as described by some.
"I'm just glad attention is being paid to the work the slaves did," Kelley told ABC11. Kanye's comments have caused quite the stir and forced many a conversation about the impacts of slavery and the long-lasting effect it still carries today.
"It's disappointing to see a person, who has stature and a national audience...use it to say things that are not well thought out about his ancestors," she said.
Could they have survived the devastation of the middle passage, packed less humanely than animals below the deck of the ship, chained to people who were sick and dying?— Blair LM Kelley (@profblmkelley) May 2, 2018
Could they have survived being sold like a good at market by people in a foreign land speaking a foreign tongue? Could they have survived torturous work, in scraps of clothing eating the food that was unwanted?— Blair LM Kelley (@profblmkelley) May 2, 2018
Dr. Kelley declined to comment on Mr. West's mental state, as many have called into question, saying it's not her position to make that diagnosis.
West later attempted to clarify his comments in an interview with hip-hop personality Charlemagne tha God about slavery being a choice.
when the media masses and scholars talk about what started today. Here's a title ...— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) May 2, 2018
the overground hell road
"I believe (Kanye) was thinking to the institution of slavery...and I don't think he misspoke," Kelley added.
Not only did my ancestors and Kanye’s ancestors survive, they managed to make a way to make a new culture, remake family and faith. And in the process, make a culture so formidable that it continues to change the world.— Blair LM Kelley (@profblmkelley) May 2, 2018
Slavery wasn’t their choice at any step. We know that freedom was always their choice, resistance was their choice when they couldn’t escape.— Blair LM Kelley (@profblmkelley) May 2, 2018
TMZ employee Van Lathan quickly interjected himself into Kanye's comments by calling out the rapper for his insensitivity.
"I actually don't think you're thinking anything," Lathan chimed in. "I think what you're doing right now is the absence of thought."
Lathan continued his address to Kanye, saying: "But there is fact, and real-world, real-life consequence behind everything that you just 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. 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."
With cameras focused on Lathan, the staffer had one final point for Yeezy to take in. "Frankly, I'm disappointed, I'm appalled and, brother, I am unbelievably hurt by the fact that you have morphed into something, to me, that's not real," Lathan said.
"I'm sure (Lathan) felt vulnerable. He was respectful, well-spoken...," said Kelley. Among her last tweets that gained such attention, Dr. Kelley added, "(Kanye) denigrating their lives at this point for attention and spare change is such an embarrassment."
After's Kanye comments, #ifslaverywasachoice started trending on Twitter.