That truth should be silent I had almost forgot.
Antony and Cleopatra, Act 1, Scene 2
May 8, 2018
1865 - 1619 ≠ 400
By RONALD N. NEFF
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I don't like writing about current teapot-tempests; still less do I like writing about rappers. But the fuss over Kanye West's intemperate remarks has gotten on my last remaining nerve.
First, here is what he said:
"When you hear about slavery for 400 years ... for 400 years? That sounds like a choice.
"Like, you 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 goes too direct to the idea of blacks. It's like slavery, Holocaust. Holocaust, Jews. Slavery is blacks. So, prison is something that unites us as one race. Blacks and whites being one race. We're the human race."
The phrase that people can't seem to stop repeating and pretending to be aghast over is, "Kanye West said slavery was a choice." Re-read what he said. Does it seem to you that that is what he said?
If it does, have a lie-down, and re-read it again later. Or have a couple of drinks or a cigarette to collect yourself.
Chattel slavery existed in the United States from 1619 to 1865. During that time, the Earth circled the sun 246 times; it has never taken this planet 400 years to make 246 of its trips around its star. Chattel slavery was protected in this country by three different governments: the British for 164 years; the U.S. government for 89 years (some of them overlapping British protection during the Revolutionary War); and the government of the Confederate States of America, for just under
4 years,also overlapped by the United States. The protections given by various colonial and state governments overlapped all three by differing numbers of years. And it was tolerated, if not protected, by the Spanish in Florida, Mississippi, and Alabama for some of that same time, and by the Spanish and French governments in Louisiana until the sale to the United States in 1803.
But it all came to an end at the end of 1865, 246 years after it first appeared.
The incontrovertible number 246 gives rise to some questions:
(1) Does Kanye West think that chattel slavery existed in the territory of the United States for 400 years?
(2) If the answer to #1 is yes, does he believe that 1865 - 1619 equals 400?
(3) Does Kanye West know that slavery came to the territory of the United States in 1619?
(4) Do his critics think that chattel slavery existed in the territory of the United States for 400 years?
(5) If the answer to #4 is yes, do they believe that 1865 - 1619 equals 400?
(6) Do they know that slavery came to the territory of the United States in 1619?
Let me address these questions in reverse order:
(6) Probably not.
(5) It wouldn't surprise me.
(3) Who knows?
(2) Probably not.
(1) I don't think so.
Any reader who wishes to offer different answers for (1), (2), and (3) will get no argument from me. As for (4), (5), and (6), my answers are practically givens.
But let us assume that my answers to (1) and (2) are correct, and that even if West could not supply the year 1619, he could give one close to it. What can we infer from that?
Let's see: 1619 + 400 = ...
2019. Pretty close to the present.
Does this bit of 2nd-grade arithmetic suggest to you that what he was talking about has something to do with the present day? Would that suggestion gain or lose strength if we recall his words "mentally in prison"?
In other words, is it really so difficult to understand that he is talking about how people think today? That he is suggesting that some of our contemporaries are in a prison of their own mental making?
Allow me the conceit of thinking that I am right.
What, then, should we think of people who harp on the suggestion that West is saying that slavery is a choice? Are they historical and arithmetical nincompoops? Are they intellectually capable of performing the same inferences that I have just suggested?
Before I let you answer yes to the second question and no to the third, I digress to contemplate Ayn Rand's insight that free will resides in the choice to think or not to think. Anyone who chooses to be a dummy to the major media's ventriloquists has chosen not to think. He is their mental slave. He is in a mental prison of their patrolling.
I do not for one minute suppose that Kanye West is a secret Randian or that his raps are coded recitations of Atlas Shrugged. What I put to you is that in a moment of lucidity exceeding that of his lyrics, he has uttered a truth:
People who talk of 400 years of slavery are in a mental prison. They are intellectual slaves. And they have chosen it for themselves. They may be merely dim puppets choosing to dully recite whatever nonsense they hear over and over rather than make use of the miraculous intellect that is already theirs, an intellect that can contain galaxies and quantum particles, and travel forward and backward in time. Or they may be the dishonest ventriloquists choosing to recite absurdities for a living. But they are all mental slaves. They are all in intellectual prisons.
Fortunately for any of them, each one can escape his chosen slavery any time he wishes; to tunnel out of his chosen prison he needs no shovels or spoons. The bonds of his slavery can be loosed any time he chooses them to be.
The freedom I speak of can begin with the recitation of a single insight to which I can claim no originality whatever and which I offer out of sheer benevolence:
"1865 - 1619 = 246." Ω
May 8, 2018
Published in 2018 by WTM Enterprises.
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