Kanye West is a cornball with low information and high-fructose corn syrup, but what he’s saying about slavery being a choice soaks in the same implicit anti-blackness as “They wouldn’t have been able to keep me in chains.” Or “I wasn’t built to be a slave.” Or “Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors that jumped from the ships because they knew death was better than bondage.”
Of course, people who say things like that (mostly) don’t intend to disrespect their ancestors. That intent, however, doesn’t matter and doesn’t negate the recklessness and danger of those sorts of statements. Also, if you are a person who says things like this, know that you are categorically wrong. Because if you had been born a slave in America when black people were born slaves, you would have done what the overwhelmingly vast majority of black people born then did, and that’s die a slave.
Dying a slave is not a mark against you or your ancestors if you happen to descend from slaves. It also does not minimize or ignore the myriad ways they attempted to challenge the institution of slavery (and if you are not aware of those histories and those stories, do something Kanye obviously doesn’t do and read a fucking book). Instead, it is proof of their strength and resilience and faith and fight.
That proof, also, is you.
If you are alive today, and if your life is the eventual product of people who, hundreds of years ago, were born in and died in chains, your very existence is a fucking miracle. That they were able to live long enough, through all of that fucking horror, to still produce and continue life, is a fucking miracle. That they went through all of that and are still able to, half a millennium later, have a legacy through you is a fucking miracle, even if you don’t recognize their fight and your existence as miraculous.
Anti-blackness—the lesson plan for white supremacy’s multidisciplinary base curriculum—is so relentless and pervasive and nimble and tricky that it has attempted to convince us to regard the men and women who came before us as something other than the fucking miracles that they were. We ain’t all come from kings and queens, and that’s fine. We mostly came from people who fought and clawed and scratched to etch space to be human when the economy of the entire fucking country was predicated on preventing that from happening—who combated a centuries-long lack of humanity with humanity’s peak.
And that’s enough. That will always be enough.