“In The Scope With Joshua M. Hicks” is a weekly column from the Managing Editor of WARR
In the midst of a new carpet-blanketing of the collected media in advance of a slate of new projects supposedly to be released this summer, legendary musician and Chicago native Kanye West shocked the world end when he went public stating that African-Americans going through 400 years of slavery was a “choice.”
In a later clarification on Twitter, West expounded on his initial statement, saying that the slaves were mentally enslaved and could not rebel and overthrow the established system.
West is not completely wrong regarding mental enslavement. However, stating that our ancestors made it a choice to stay enslaved and not fight back is completely inaccurate. They have been revolting for years and we are still fighting for freedom from enslavement today.
Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome (PTSS) is described as a set of behaviors, beliefs and actions associated with or, related to multi-generational trauma experienced by African Americans that may be inclusive of but not limited to undiagnosed and untreated Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in enslaved Africans, according to the National Association of Scholars (NAS). Although it is not a medically diagnosed disorder, this syndrome supports West’s “free thinking” about being mentally enslaved to the “Massa.”
But PTSS became a thing because the conditions of slavery were extremely excruciating. It was part of America’s economic system and was an oppression tactic designed to limit Blacks’ potential success, making us more dependent on the oppressor for survival instead of ourselves.
Laws were created to keep Blacks uneducated, while slave women were raped by their masters and a strict hierarchy, from privileged house slaves and skilled artisans to field workers, was created to keep the slaves divided, making things more difficult to revolt. Families were separated, chained up in bondage and brutally whipped and abused. If families were able to stay together, the idea of leaving them for an unknown future was too grand of a risk, especially since the rate of being captured and re-enslaved was so common and often times led to lynching, a concept created to lower run-away slave attempts.
Even through those excruciating circumstances, we cannot dismiss the fact that many slaves have made their excruciating choices to run away and rebel against the establishment. Gabriel Prosser (Richmond, 1800) and Denmark Vesey (Charleston, 1822) led revolts, along with the most notable revolt led by Nat Turner in Virginia in 1831 and Harriet Tubman running away and freeing many slaves within the process. Slaves took even more desperate measures, fighting for the Union in the Civil War and for the British in the Revolutionary War to gain established freedom in the “land of the free.”
Unfortunately, in America, there is always a cost to freedom. Slavery means submission to a dominating influence, submission that is often times forced.
Over time slavery transformed. After slavery was abolished in 1865 as the 13th Amendment in our Constitution, freed slaves struggled to even be free during the Reconstruction period due to the restricted black codes that were already contracted in the law, overlooking the present laws written to end enslavement. The Klu Klux Klan (KKK) and other racial organizations then aided to the rebirth of white supremacy in politics, making being Black in America that much more difficult to live.
Lingering racism and discrimination led to the civil rights movement in the segregated Jim Crow era. The movement became a success, but laws were still being implemented to target Blacks in the criminal justice system, penalizing Blacks for harmless crimes, giving them lengthy sentences and damaging their records and equal rights opportunities.
America is making money off of innocent incarcerated criminals. Black men are still being abused and murdered by police everyday at a high rate without penalty and groups like Black Lives Matter (BLM) and others are protesting and fighting everyday because institutional racism is alive and well and being “separate, but equal” dictates the “justice for all” estate.
Wake up, Mr. West! Slavery was forced on Americans and has been the foundation of America’s existence since 1619. Our ancestors did not want to be stripped from their homelands to be slaves to masters in unknown areas. Our ancestors did not want their families separated and violated or pay the price of brutal abuse and death, but they fought so that we can have the freedom we have today.
As an influential figure in the black community, no matter how you were trying to get your “free thinking” point across, your comments were still degrading and shameful. For that, I hold you accountable. You do not get a pass from me.
Joshua M. Hicks is a Chicago-based sports writer and broadcaster, follow him on Twitter @jhicks042; Follow We Are Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under We Are Regal Radio