The Kanye West comments, Candace Owens co-signing, and the fall out from those comments created a bit of tension for me. I was left thinking about the idea of “free thought” and what that phrase means. We all have the right to believe what we want, say what we want, and post what we want on social media. That is freedom.I paused to think about Kanye and Candace Owen’s ideas about free thinking, and how all black people don’t have to be democrats or hate Donald Trump. I couldn’t agree more, and I don’t hate Donald Trump. I have black Republican friends who are brilliant thinkers and share some of my beliefs about racism both in the church and outside of it. I’ve voted for Democrats, Republicans, and Independents in my life, and I haven’t pledged allegiance to any political party.

With that said, I think the “free-thinking black human” card is trash. No one has suppressed Candace or Kanye’s beliefs. They’ve been on TMZ, Twitter didn’t delete their accounts, and contrary to what you may have heard, Kanye did not lose nine million Twitter followers (according to a Twitter spokesperson). There is no need for them to act like free thinking is dead –  because it is not. I would like to see the death of ignorance paraded as intelligence, but ignorance is a necessary evil that accompanies free speech. There will always be people who are free to spread delusion as fact.

Because Candace and Kanye have freedom of expression they can say things like:
“Four hundred years of slavery sounds like a choice to me” – Kanye West

“I kind of like the word ‘Coon’ ” – Candace Owens

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We, however, don’t have to agree with them. We have the right to be emotionally disturbed by the damage their words can do to the world, and we have the right to express that displeasure.

I got into a debate with someone this week who disagreed with me when I said that ideology like Candace’s could have potential long term consequences for POC. This good friend of mine was totally on the free thought train and subscribed to the ideas Candace and Kanye have been sharing – which is their right. I’m not mad at them for it. They’re not alone. I’ve seen more than a few people saying that if you watch the full TMZ video of Kanye’s 30-minute stream of consciousness, you’ll see that he made some excellent points…

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Therein lies the danger – he did say some things that on the surface, and in a vacuum, are valuable for society. His comments about love are real. We should love everyone. The context is the problem. Kanye and Candace, to move black people forward and “out of slavery,” are ignoring history as if it does not affect the present. They are propagating the same old “pull yourself up by the bootstraps message” to black people that Dr. King lamented as a fallacy. Seasoned with the message of love and equality, it sounds Candace and Kanye are saying what we should all want. That’s why I have such a problem with their words. They are close enough to the truth to be credible, but far enough from it to be dangerous.

I would love for every American to hold hands across all 50 states and sing a beautiful song together, but first, we have to acknowledge what’s broken, commit to fixing it and do that work together. Then we can sing.

Some Americans (mostly white) praise black people like Candace Owens and Kanye for their “truth and bravery” because they say things that absolve white people from the burden of uprooting the system that rewards them for being white.  To recreate a system that is equitable, fair, and just for all Americans, an effort has to be made to elevate those who have been systematically oppressed. Otherwise, black people in America will forever be living in the “hand me downs” of white privilege.

Statements like “Let’s just forget the past and move on” are words that I’ve only heard people with privilege say, whether that person was white or black. It’s a much easier statement to make when you have advantages. I’m not saying that people don’t work hard to get where they are. People do. However, not all hard work is equal. There are plenty of hard working black men and women in America who will NEVER have the advantages that their white counterparts can achieve. Kanye and Candace seem to have forgotten that.

Lastly, the comment “slavery was a choice” isn’t as crazy as it is incredibly irreverent to the memory of black men and women who were slaves in this country. To insinuate that these people were cowards for not fighting back is beyond idiotic. Kanye’s words weren’t wrong; everyone does have a choice. Again, they were dangerous because they give power to a belief system that shifts blame from the oppressor to the oppressed. It says that slavery was the fault of slaves. That sentiment dishonors our ancestors, and it is heartbreaking because for people who lived and died as slaves, calling them cowards strips them of justice again. It strips them of the dignity of being remembered affectionately after a lifetime of terrible oppression. It’s unfair to judge people who lived under the physical and psychological trauma of slavery, from our place of freedom and relative ease. None of us, including Kanye West and Candace Owens, could have handled 400 years of dehumanization any better.