Kanye West calls slavery a 'choice'

During an interview with TMZ, US rapper Kanye West said 400 years of slavery "sounds like a choice." After outrage ensued, the artist took to Twitter to try and explain himself.

Kanye West has sparked outrage after he described slavery as a "choice" during a video interview posted on American celebrity news site TMZ.com on Tuesday.

"When you hear about slavery for 400 years. For 400 years? That sounds like a choice," the 40-year-old rapper said in the interview,

"Do you feel like I'm thinking free and feeling free?" West asked TMZ employees in the room, to which TMZ’s Van Lathan responded, "I actually don't think you're thinking anything."

Read more: As slave trade abolition is celebrated, millions of Africans continue to live as slaves

Lathan said as West gets to live the life of an elite artist, "the rest of us in society have to deal with these threats in our lives. We have to deal with the marginalization that has come from the 400 years of slavery that you said for our people was our choice."

Millions of Africans were brought to the present-day US, starting from late in the 16th century in colonies; the practice was not abolished in the US until the late 19th century.

Read more: Ghana: Rescuing children from slavery

West later took to Twitter and attempted to justify his comments.

"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."

'I just love Trump'

During the interview, West also emphasized his support for US President Donald Trump.

"I just love Trump," West said, adding that many people in the hip-hop community agreed with him before Trump became president. "Trump is one of rap's favorite people." One known exception to this would be Eminem, who last year issued a scathing video taking Trump to task.

Read more: Kanye West: The calculated impulsiveness of a hit maker

In a separate interview with radio host Charlamagne tha God, West said he had not followed Trump's policies but, "When I see an outsider infiltrate, I connect with that."

He also told TMZ that he became addicted to opioids that doctors had prescribed after he had liposuction surgery in 2016. As a result, he was hospitalized for a week and had to shorten his "Pablo" tour.

West said the painkillers led to him having a "breakdown," which then became a "breakthrough" when he found himself again.

Born into bondage
Schweda was born a slave in Mauritania's north-eastern Sahara along with her brother, Matallah. Overcoming virtually insurmountable odds, Matallah succeeded in freeing her and her nine children from slavery in March 2013.
Gritty capital
Twenty-five years of drought have transformed Mauritania from a nomadic to an urban society. The transition has not been easy, and with an unemployment rate of 40 percent, many Mauritanians survive on less than one dollar a day.
Making do
Shantytowns have sprung up on the outskirts of Nouakchott, where many former slaves, and those who left the drought-ridden countryside in search of opportunity, build homes from scrap metal and other found items.
Nationwide repression
Slavery in Mauritania is not unique to the countryside. Mbarka was born into slavery and lived her life serving a wealthy family in Nouakchott. She was freed in 2011 with the assistance of well-known anti-slavery activist Biram Abeid and IRA, the abolitionist organization he leads.
Bringing freedom
Messaoud Boubacar (left) of the anti-slavery NGO SOS Esclaves was instrumental in the freeing of Matallah (right) and the subsequent liberation of his sister and her nine children. Both are members of a 'slave caste,' known as the Hratine, and are descended from black African ethnic groups along the Senegal River who were subjugated by white Arab Berbers.
'Slave caste'
The Hratine often suffer from discrimination as they are at the very bottom of the social and economic ladder. There are no reliable figures for the number of Hratine. Human rights groups estimate that 10 to 20 percent of Mauritania's 3.5 million people are slaves.
Fatherless society
"In slavery fathers are irrelevant, their presence is not a factor," says Massaoud Boubacar of SOS Esclaves. "There is no role for the father, because the master owns the women, and when the women give birth the master owns the children, which he might sell or do with as he pleases."
Seeking justice
Eleven year-old Yarg (right) is one of the very few former slaves in Mauritania to have successfully had his former master convicted for the crimes committed against him. The man was sentenced to two years in prison for a crime that should have resulted in a five-to 10-year-minimum sentence.
Poverty gap
Mauritania is one of the richest countries in West Africa in terms of fish stocks and mineral wealth, but the riches earned from these resources have not been shared by the general populace.
Struggle for survival
Matallah's family - here his wife and child - live in grinding poverty, like many Hratine and former slaves. Despite the challenges, they have retained their dignity and an uncommon positivity that a brighter future may be in store for them.

law/msh (AP, dpa, Reuters)

Date 02.05.2018