The Real Price of the Freedom to Freethink (aka Kanye needs to read a book)

Whitney Alese
5 min readMay 15, 2018


There has been a lot of chatter around the term freethinking lately.

The word Freethinker originally finds itself in religious roots, originally defined as “one who rejects or is skeptical of religious dogma”. The word had evolved to mean “a person who thinks freely or independently : one who forms opinions on the basis of reason independently of authority”. In order to be able to think freely, one must be presented with information by which to form one’s own free thought.

Kanye West is not a Freethinker, by definition or otherwise. Like the current president, Kanye is an ego driven man who is poorly read and educated upon actual facts (as opposed to alternative ones). Kanye relishes in the fact that he doesn’t read, therefore relishes in ignorance. Reading, an exercise that increases intelligence and brain power, this self appointed genius scoffs at. Which begs the question: How can one be a freethinker when you really have no information about which to think?

I digress…

Kanye’s rhetoric is not only blatantly inaccurate, it is dangerous. Right now, the current president and Mr. West are not the only two who are poorly educated on actual history of their nation. There is already a large percentage of the U.S. population who have had their small minded and bigoted views affirmed by this administration and have, in essence, been freed to violently and aggressively parade these views in a way not seen in this magnitude since the end of civil rights. These hate filled people already believe weird and strange things about slavery, the type of things that lead teachers in these areas to assign their students to find the positives of slavery, dangerous history editing

The truth is that the “freethought” that the MAGA hate group and skin folk such as Candice Owens, Diamond and Silk, and now Kanye hold as a tenant allowing for unfiltered random and incoherent brain spew was historically associated with progressive movements for social change. Not these overly individualistic provocateurs who think that “freethought” is simply the endless and unedited stream of asinine and ill informed thoughts that wind through their minds. Unlike the aforementioned group, these freethinkers actually allowed and even encouraged various opinions in order to better inform their dialogue.

What needs to happen with this dangerous rhetoric is that it needs to be directly challenged. Following a recent interview with TMZ, Kanye asked (read: beg of the approval of ) the staff during an “off camera” segment of mostly young white people, “Do you feel that I’m being free and I’m thinking free?” (side note, if you were really thinking free, would you need to ask anyone about it?) Van Lathan, a senior producer TMZ, responded, “I actually don’t think you are thinking anything. While you are making music and being an artist and living the life that you’ve earned by being a genius, the rest of us in society have to deal with these threats to 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 a choice.” Van perfectly exemplified the only response (not reaction) to these faux freethinkers, presenting facts.
That being said, here are some facts for Mr West and his MAGA skin folk to chew on:

Slavery was not a “choice” for people of the diaspora.

Many captured Africans took their own lives by throwing themselves from slave ships during the nightmare known as the Middle Passage. These Africans chose their own death rather than the uncertain life ahead. It is estimated that at least 14 million Africans died during the Middle Passage. So prevalent was this suicide, that even today, there are great white sharks that follow the original paths of those slave ships.

The first all Black slave revolt recored in the U.S. was in 1672.

Since then, there were an estimated 250 slave revolts recorded before abolition in 1865.

The Stono revolt of 1739 is deemed the bloodiest revolt in American History. 20 Blacks stole weapons and supplies before heading to Spanish held Florida from South Carolina. As they travelled, the group grew into 100 Blacks. They were confronted by a local militia where many of the 100 were caught and executed.

The most famous of these slave revolts was one lead by Nat Turner beginning August 22nd of 1831. That revolt lead to the execution of over 60 Black people, including Turner.

The Amistad slave ship revolt of 1839 saw 53 captured Africans kill all of the ships crew save two who promised to steer the ship back to Africa. The ship lingered for 2 months before docking in Long Island and the captured Africans entered a court battle that would see them liberated and returned to Africa in January of 1842.

The Civil War saw multiple slave uprisings beginning in 1859 in Mississippi, with uprisings were reported in West Virginia, Virginia, Missouri, Kentucky, Illinois and North Carolina that same year.

The only thing that brought an end to these violent uprisings, revolts and conspiracies was the defeat of the Confederates.

And none of these events take into consideration the many Blacks who either attempted to successfully escaped slavery to freedom everyday form the first Africans brought on to U.S. soil until the day before emancipation.

Seems to me that the choice for these brave ancestors was very clear, and slavery was not an option.

These violent and desperate measures clearly demonstrate the high cost these Black people were willing to pay for their freedom. The choices that they made were harder than any Mr. West will ever have to make. The facts are that these people chose to run, fight, or whatever they must have in order to be free. They chose to risk life and limb for the chance at liberty.

These people sought freedom in order for us, their descendants, to even have the ability to think free.

Facts one would know and dare never to question if one was truly a freed thinker.

I have one more question for Mr West: can freethinking truly be considered “free” if you’re a slave to White opinion?

*Mic drop.*



Whitney Alese

Whitney Alese is a writer & podcaster, featured in WIRED Magazine (Sept 2020) & I-D Magazine (Dec. 2021), and NBC (Jan 2023). She is based in Philadelphia.