BALTIMORE (WJZ/AP) — Rapper Kanye West sparked outrage on Tuesday after calling American slavery a “choice” during an interview, and actor Wendell Pierce responded with a firestorm of tweets.
“When you hear about slavery for 400 years, for 400 years, that sounds like a choice,” West said on “TMZ Live” after questions on his pro-President Donald Trump posts and pictures that caused a dust-up last week. “You was there for 400 years, and it’s all of y’all?”
“Do you feel like I’m thinking free and feeling free?” West asked the TMZ employees in the room.
“I actually don’t think you’re thinking anything,” TMZ’s Van Lathan quickly cracked back at West, as many would in the ensuing hours.
Lathan said while West gets to live the elite artist’s life, “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.”
West received widespread backlash for the controversial comments on social media — including from Pierce, who played Detective William “Bunk” Moreland in the Baltimore crime drama “The Wire.”
Symone D. Sanders, political commentator and CNN contributor, led the rest of the anti-West chorus on Twitter.
“Kanye is a dangerous caricature of a ‘free-thinking’ black person in America,” Sanders tweeted. “Frankly, I am disgusted and I’m over it. Also (I can’t believe I have to say this): Slavery was far from a choice.”
Others put it more briefly.
“Slavery wasn’t a choice,” Russ Bengtson tweeted, “but listening to Kanye is.”
West also told TMZ that he became addicted to opioids that doctors prescribed after he had liposuction surgery in 2016. He was hospitalized for a week and had to cut short his “Pablo” tour. West said the painkillers drove him to a “breakdown,” which became a “breakthrough” when he found himself again.
West also doubled down on his love of the president, which Trump has been returning in tweets.
“I just love Trump,” West said, adding that most in hip-hop agreed with him before Trump became president. “Trump is one of rap’s favorite people.”