Nietzsche boasted he could say in 10 sentences what others say in a whole book. I got Nietzsche beat. I don’t need a sentence to refute Kanye West’s “400 years of slavery sounds like a choice” comment, all I need is another term for slavery.
“Involuntary” before “servitude” indicates force, which eliminates choice. Now, let’s repeat Kanye’s thought experiment using this term.
Involuntary servitude was a choice.
Here, the contradiction is clear, choice is not involuntary. Most will call the statement inaccurate, but actually, it’s illogical. What’s the difference? 4+4=16 is inaccurate, but 4+4=W is illogical. In the first equation the error in operation can be detected and corrected. The second answer does not observe any principles of addition and is nonsensical.
Now, if Kanye said “involuntary servitude” or “forced labor” the illogic of his statement would have been self-evident and dismissed. No logical person would have felt the need to respond to such nonsense. But Kanye said “slavery;” referring to past slavery in the United States, and that’s a concept “well meaning” Americans can’t ignore. So, the proselytizers and protectors of slavery’s “proper” narrative and the self-appointed instructors of “teachable moments” joined forces to chastise Kanye. For a week I saw headlines like: Historians respond to Kanye West, Kanye West should visit the Montgomery Slavery Memorial, and Kanye West’s fallout with the Black community.
It seemed unnecessary to embark on a fact-checking crusade to correct nonsense, but these crusaders believe slavery must be presented in “proper” context at all times in order for America to come to terms with its horrific past.
Recently, linguist John McWhorter was skeptical of these motives. McWhorter suggested the Kanye week in review was an opportunity for “well meaning” Americans to perform. Whites could prove they’re good people by showing off what they know about the horrors of slavery and Blacks felt it was their duty to deliver this message to the nation. It wasn’t a “teachable moment,” because you can’t correct nonsense, it was a performing moment.
And that’s fine, everyone enjoys a good performance, but one Black performer said Kanye’s comments were similar to Holocaust denial. (Kanye never denied slavery took place.) The irony here is that this illogical comment actually made me think of a question. Is it possible the performance by all the “well meaning” Americans is a mask to hide their denial or indifference to modern-day slavery?
End Slavery Now wrote, “In the U.S. more foreign victims are found in labor traffic than sex traffic. Some of these labor trafficking victims entered the country under work or student-based visa programs. Victims can be targeted once they arrive in the U.S., or foreign recruiters may bring these forced laborers to the U.S. using fraudulent or coercive means. Primary countries of origin for foreign victims certified by the U.S. government are Thailand, Mexico, the Philippines, Haiti, India, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic.” (Notice only one country listed is predominately Black. Racism was once loosely defined as the soft bigotry of low expectation. Now, for argument’s sake, do the previously mentioned Black performers have the power to display soft indifference?)
Pacifists don’t correct all revisionist accounts of previous wars to teach the populace that “war is hell.” They’re too busy opposing modern warfare.
Maybe all of the “past slavery” performers should become more like pacifists.
(J. Pharaoh Doss is a contributor to the New Pittsburgh Courier.)
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