Writer slams Kanye West over ignorance

LOS ANGELES • A week ago, Kanye West said 400 years of slavery in America was a "choice", appearing to blame enslaved black people for not freeing themselves sooner.

He added that certain black icons such as Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X are "just too far in the past and not relatable".

Those comments have ruffled the feathers of acclaimed writer TaNehisi Coates, who penned an essay in the Atlantic on Monday to rebuke what the rapper said.

He is a National Book Award winner and national correspondent for the Atlantic, writing most frequently about social issues affecting black people in America.

His essay, I'm Not Black, I'm Kanye, slams West for his "ignorance" which he described as "not merely deep, but also dangerous".

He laments the rapper's evolution from a hip-hop upstart to a blustery "mouthpiece" for the types of theories and beliefs that play down racism in America.

"West calls his struggle the right to be a 'free thinker'," Coates wrote, "and he is, indeed, championing a kind of freedom - white freedom, freedom without consequence, freedom without criticism, freedom to be proud and ignorant; freedom to profit off a people in one moment and abandon them in the next... freedom without responsibility, without hard memory."

To Coates, the comments playing down racism is akin to Michael Jackson's whitewashed face.

The singer's "physical destruction", he wrote, "was our physical destruction, because if the black God... could not be beautiful in his own eyes, then what hope did we have... of ever escaping the muck?"

"Who can really stop a black god dying to be white?" he questioned.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 10, 2018, with the headline 'Writer slams Kanye West over ignorance'. Print Edition | Subscribe