Kanye West's Slavery Was a Choice Controversy
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Kanye West's Slavery Was a Choice Controversy refers to a series of reactions to a comment rapper and music producer Kanye West made during an interview on TMZ Live. The rapper said, "You hear about slavery for 400 years. For 400 years?! That sounds like a choice." Following the comments, a TMZ staff member confronted West over the comments, and online, people mocked the comments using the hashtag #IfSlaveryWasAChoice.
On May 1st, 2018, Kanye West appeared on TMZ Live. During the interview, he discussed his affinity and support for United States President Donald Trump as well as his issues with the media and how people perceive him. At one point in the interview, West made several comments about the history of slavery in the United States. He said:
"When you hear about slavery for 400 years. For 400 years?! That sounds like a choice. You was there for 400 years and it’s all of y’all. It’s like we’re mentally in prison. I like the word ‘prison’ because ‘slavery’ goes too direct to the idea of blacks. Slavery is to blacks as the Holocaust is to Jews. Prison is something that unites as one race, blacks and whites, that we’re the human race."
Following West's comments, TMZ employee Van Lathan confronted the rapper. He said to Kanye West:
"I think what you’re doing right now is actually the absence of thought. And the reason why I feel like that is because, 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 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.
"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."
Following the interview, people online, including some celebrities commented on West's statements, denounced his opinion and praised the response from Van Lathan.
Sports reporter Stephen A. Smith tweeted,  "Don’t usually get caught up in commenting about stuff like this but I saw what Kanye West said and I was ASHAMED. 400 Years of slavery a CHOICE???? Really! All I’ll say is this: I’m incredibly proud of that staffer from TMZ. Brilliant, Eloquent & totally appropriate response.#WTH." The post (shown below, left) received more than 9,700 retweets and 45,000 likes in 24 hours.
Twitter user @geekyrock tweeted a screen capture of the definition of "slavery." They captioned the post, "In case @kanyewest doesn't know how to Google. Here is the definition of slavery." The tweeted (shown below, center) received more than 1,100 retweets and 4,200 likes in 24 hours.
Radio DJ Ebro tweeted, "Damn… I wish Charlemagne interview was the last thing we heard from Ye … But he had to run his ass up to TMZ and further play himself.. SMH … Who is the TMZ guy that fried him tho? 🤣🤣🤣" The post (shown below, right) 1,600 retweets and 7,900 likes in 24 hours.
That day, Twitter published several Moments pages about the controversy.
That day, Redditor  TheHHHRobot posted about the controversy in the "Kanye West megathread" in the /r/hiphopheads subreddit. The post received more than 4,300 points (95% upvoted) and 4,800 comments in 24 hours. Additionally, Redditor moby323 posted about the controversy in the /r/esist subreddit, where it received more than 2,000 points (92% upvoted) and 300 comments.
That evening, people on Twitter began joking about West's comments about slavery being a choice, using the hashtag #IfSlaveryWasAChoice. The earliest known use of the hashtag was posted by Twitter user @anu_akinola, who tweeted, "After working for 12 hours and the slave master tells you that you didn’t pick enough cotton… #IfSlaveryWasAChoice." The post (shown below) received more than 540 retweets and 1,100 likes in 24 hours.
After working for 12 hours and the slave master tells you that you didn’t pick enough cotton…#IfSlaveryWasAChoice pic.twitter.com/x0Q1NMXlSK
— Anu🙅🏿♂️ (@anu_akinola) May 1, 2018
That day, Sports journalist Jemele Hill tweeted, "When you a freshman at Slave University and you get assigned to the house #IfSlaveryWasAChoice" and a picture of Prince. The post (shown below, left) received more than 8,600 retweets and 27,000 likes in 24 hours.
Throughout the evening more people began posting jokes and using the hashtag (examples below, center and right).
Kanye West's Response
Over the course of three tweets, West attempted to clarify his comments. He said, "to make myself clear. Of course I know that slaves did not get shackled and put on a boat by free will. 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. They cut out our tongues so we couldn't communicate to each other." I will not allow my tongue to be cut." The posts (shown below) received more than 6,000 retweets and 100,000 likes, collectively.
 Twitter @TMZ's Tweet
 Twitter – @stephenasmith's Twitter
 Twitter – @geekyrock's Tweet
 Twitter @oldmanebro's Tweet
 Twitter – When you hear about slavery for 400 years, for 400 years? That sound like a choice, @kanyewest told @TMZLive.
 Twitter -History professor breaks down Kanye's slavery was a choice argument
 Twitter – Kanye West's comments about slavery are a bridge too far for some
 Twitter – @kanyewest's Tweet
 Twitter – @kanyewest's Tweet
 Twitter @kanyewest's Tweet
 Reddit – Kanye West Megathread: May 1st, 2018
 Reddit – Kanye West: “I love Trump. Also, slavery was a choice.
 Twitter – @jemelehill's Tweet
 Twitter – @anu_akinola's Tweet
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