When rapper and producer, Kanye West, boldly made the claim that “slavery was a choice” he was met with fury and criticism from the Black community. This statement was made is 2018, and two years later we are reckoning with the fact that Kanye is not alone in his perception of Black history or the enslavement of African people and the question remains – who do we really believe that we are and what story are we going to tell?
The stories we tell
The narrative that many Black Americans believe relating to their history in the America’s is not only incomplete but also inaccurately presented in substitute of the truth.
Kanye West’s statement speaks to a version of Black American history that begins with the enslavement of African people on American soil. This is the same narrative that paints African people as docile and submissive to their colonization.
Though there is much evidence today to speak to the legacy and influence that African people have had on the world, it is still overlooked because of the false truths that affirm Black people’s negative self-concept. This is where Kanye’s statement appears to challenge some unspoken truth or where he believes he may have presented some alternative perspective from which Black people may not have already analyzed our circumstance.
What Kanye has failed to realize or somehow forgotten, is the very struggle that his ancestors endured to ensure that he could have the platform that he does today. Slavery was not the choice, freedom was and still is.
“Whatever we believe about ourselves and our ability comes true for us.”
Journalist and writer, Susan L. Taylor, reminds us that our positon in the world starts with our mindset. If Black people believe that we are intrinsically slaves and that our access to ourselves has been denied to us by our past then that is and will be our destiny. Black people know better! Black people understand that they have a purpose in this world that outstands our potential. Black people know that they are the standard by which everything else is truly measured. The PROTOTYPE.
What challenges do we have with believing in the version of ourselves that we know ourselves to be?
Kanye’s statement has relevance today because of the current political discussion around the future of Black people in America – reparations, a Black woman as Vice President, changes in public policies influenced by social justice advocates and community organizers. New opportunities are being presented to Black people to have agency in how they want to be seen and experienced in the world.
The narrative will soon come to center our true values and wealth as people.
To many, Kanye’s remarks regarding the enslavement of African people come off as nothing more than ignorance and poor judgement. What we cannot allow ourselves to be distracted from discussing are the other forces that are always at play.
More than half way into the year 2020, Senator Tom Cotton expresses that he believes the founding fathers of this country considered slavery a necessary evil. While America is still struggling to reckon with its true feelings about its colonizing past, Black people are determined to elevate beyond the conversation of oppressive systems and onto defining the nature of actualized freedom and autonomy for generations to come.
Black people have dedicated long days and hours to unpacking and decolonizing the clutter that blurs our sound judgement over who we believe we are.
If we uphold certain truths, like those asserted by misinformed influencers in our communities, we are preparing our children for an inheritance that cannot provide them with a sustainable life.
We can break these cycles with the truths we choose to embrace now.
Black people are bringing a different balance and healing to this nation in these current times. It may not feel as if we are living in history as it unfolds, but the strides that are being made today will have great harvests in our future.
When we decide that we want to take a step forward it has to be a collective move. Some of us will want to maintain an enslaved state while the rest are running towards a life defined on their own terms.
There is no set way to make anyone see the truth if it does not pique some interest when it is revealed.
The San Diego Monitor-News has been serving Black San Diego since 1986