Yesterday, Kanye West released a 105-minute video interview in which he participated in a thoughtful, well-articulated discussion. Although his logic was faulty and uniformed, Kanye presented himself as an earnest, well-intentioned free-thinker whose core beliefs are rooted in idealism as opposed to batshit rightwing conspiracy theories. Unfortunately, any goodwill that came from the interview was immediately diminished when Kanye and conservative provocateur Candece Owens made their way to TMZ on Tuesday afternoon. It was there that Kanye regurgitated Owens’ argument that black people are victims of their own mental self-imprisonment and need to get over their slavery past.
“When you hear about slavery for 400 years… For 400 years? That sounds like a choice,” Kanye remarked to TMZ. “You were there for 400 years and it’s all of y’all. It’s like we’re mentally imprisoned.” Later, Kanye sought to clarify his comments on Twitter — “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” — but the damage had been done. #IfSlaveryWasAChoice was the No. 1 trend on Twitter last night, and Kanye’s comments were dissected throughout the evening by cable news networks, political pundits, and shell-shocked fans alike.
One of the best responses to Kanye’s comments came from Will.i.am, who addressed the controversy during an appearance on Good Morning Britain earlier today. “That broke my heart,” Will.i.am said. “I thought about my grandma, who was born in 1920, and her connection to her mom, who was born in the late 1800s, and my grandmother’s grandma, who was a slave.”
He continued: “When you’re a slave, you’re owned. You don’t chose to be owned. When you’re a slave, you’re deprived of education — that’s not choice, that’s by force. I understand the need to have free thought, but if your thoughts aren’t researched, that’s just going to hurt those who are still in conditions where it’s not their choice that when they go down the street, there’s a liquor store and fast food restaurants, and your education is not being funded the same way it is in Calabasas, when government is stifling the amount of money that goes to Chicago, Watts, the Bronx, 5th Ward Mississippi, or East Los Angeles. If the zoning added it up to the point where kids are getting a proper investment for their education, I wouldn’t have to raise money for robotics programs, college preparation programs.”
“That statement was one of the most ignorant statements that anybody who came from the hood can say about their ancestors,” he added.
Later on in the interview, Will.i.am questioned Kanye’s true intentions. “That’s not Kanye. To me, that’s a different person who’s saying that. I hope it’s not to raise awareness to sell a record and some shoes. That would be the worst thing to stir up the very touchy race situation and you be the benefactor of it… I wouldn’t throw my ancestors under the bus to profit.”
Watch Will.i.am’s full comments below.