Kanye West Sparks Major Outrage After Saying Slavery Is a ‘Choice’: Watch

UPDATE 5/1/18 8:07 p.m.: West clarified his comments through a series of tweets on Tuesday. “to make myself clear. Of course I know that slaves did not get shackled and put on a boat by free will,” he wrote. “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 rapper continued. “Kanye vs the media is modern day Willie Linch (sic) theory … They hung the most powerful in order to force fear into the others.”

Original story below: 

Kanye West is making waves, once again. The rapper appeared on TMZ Live on Tuesday, May 1, and almost immediately ruffled feathers when bringing up slavery.

“I am in hip-hop, but I’m not just in hip-hop. I’m a black person in the black community, but I’m not just that. I feel like one thing is that people try to minimize me to artist, hip-hop, black community. I’m always going to represent that, but I also represent the world. You hear about slavery for 400 years. For 400 years? That sounds like a choice,” West, 40, told the hosts of TMZ Live. “Like, that 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 is too direct to the idea of blacks. Like Holocaust is Jews, slavery is blacks. So prison is something that unites us as one race, whites and blacks being one race. The human race.”

Kanye West on TMZ
Kanye West on TMZ TMZ

Later in the show, he turns the interview to the entire newsroom, asking the reporters, “Do you feel that I am being free and that I’m thinking free?”

That’s when Van Lathan, an employee at TMZ, stood up to respond.

“I actually don’t feel think you’re thinking anything. I think what you’re doing right now is actually the absence of thought. The reason that I feel that is because Kanye, you’re entitled to you’re 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,” Lathan says, speaking up across the room.

Van Lathan responds to Kanye West
Van Lathan responds to Kanye West TMZ

“While you are making music and being an artist and living the life that you earned by being a genius, the rest of us in society have to deal with these threats to our lives,” he continued. “We have to deal with the marginalization that’s 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’m unbelievably hurt by the fact that you have morphed into something, to me, that’s not real.”

Afterward, West walked across the newsroom to face Lathan, saying, “Bro, I’m sorry I hurt you.”

Immediately following the interview airing, the Twitter universe reacted. Glee star Kevin McHale retweeted the clip, writing, “Soooo, this is why education reform from the ground up should [be] THE priority.”

“I’m not even mad at Kanye. I think what he’s publicly doing is a perfect example of how a large portion of the country feels and thinks. There’s a tide of miseducation and falsehoods and conspiracies that prey on those who are susceptible. Kanye is one of them,” McHale continued. “To fix that, we need great education for everyone from day 1. In every part of this country. Look, we love Kanye because he’s a genius musical artist. But we don’t have to co-sign the rest of it.”

Former MTV VJ Dave Holmes wrote, “Paying attention to Kanye West? That feels like a choice.”

Jamie Lee Curtis also tweeted. “There is fact & real world, real life consequence behind everything you just said…the rest of us in society have to deal with these threats to our lives. We have to deal with the marginalization…from the 400 years of slavery that u said for our people was a choice.@VanLathan,” she wrote.

Sign up now for the Us Weekly newsletter to get breaking celebrity news, hot pics and more delivered straight to your inbox!

Close popup

Welcome to In Motion

Bring photos to life with Us Weekly's exciting new mobile experience!

What's In Motion? Tell me more

What's In Motion?

Go back

How to Use In Motion

What's In Motion? Tell me more