Kanye West was right(ish) | WIRED

Four thousand is a reference to the 40 acres that Blacks were supposed to receive as compensation and start-up seed investments after the American Civil War, compensations that were never fully distributed. Kanye seems to be saying, we never got our 40 acres, but personally, I’ve accumulated 100 times that amount.

In the early 1900s, Kanye’s family was in Oklahoma, a land of opportunity for Blacks. When Kanye’s grandfather, Portwood Williams, was born, Oklahoma had 50 all-black towns, more than any other state. In the center is Tulsa, where Booker T. Washington proudly claims to be “Black Wall Street”. The county was founded by one of the first Black self-made millionaires – OW Gurley – and is considered by many to be one of the wealthiest Negro neighborhoods in the south.

In 1921, when Portwood was seven, the idyllic black Wall Street was attacked by a mob of angry white foxes in a massacre known as the Tulsa Race Massacre. More than 300 Negroes were murdered, and 35 houses and businesses on them burned down. As a boy, Portwood worked as a shoe shiner, bringing money home to pay the bills but also keeping some for himself. As an adult, he started a upholstery business, found success, and was eventually named one of Oklahoma City’s outstanding black entrepreneurs.

In 1958, Portwood took his young children to what had become a three-day sit-in at the Katz Drug Store lunch counter in downtown Oklahoma City. It’s not enough to quietly build your own success; he must go beyond self-interest and must also make claims to broader power. He wanted to show what it means to be successful—in his own way and with autonomy—as a Negro. Portwood and his wife, Lucille, have four children: Shirlie, Klaye, Portwood Jr., and Donda, Kanye’s mother. They will instill in them a strong work ethic, firm determination, unshakable faith in God and commitment to civil rights.

When you consider this history, Kanye’s frame of mind starts to make more sense. The Williams family has persevered towards a vision of autonomy even in the face of violent racism. For Kanye, that led him on a path to finding representation and power through often symbolic methods: “We’ll do things my way now.” That’s why those 4,000 acres mean so much to him and his father.

This move is bigger and older than Kanye. In 1895, at the Atlanta Exposition, Booker T. Washington gave a speech called the “Atlanta Compromise”. In front of a predominantly white crowd, Washington urged Blacks to avoid confronting whites over discrimination or political or social equality and instead focus on building economic security. black economic independence. His argument was this: Black people need to create their own destiny and fortune, independent of their white surroundings.

More than a century after that speech, this self-made framework of Negro economic autonomy persists in Black political thought. In some places, this is more evident than the resurgence of black economist Thomas Sowell in surprising online spaces. Sowell is a brilliant writer and leader of conservative-liberal thought. Central to his ideology, Sowell sees the combination of federal aid and racial rhetoric as the gateway drug to disabling the working class and undermining skin family values. black, community economy and sustainability. The enemy, Sowell claims, is not conservatism, but liberal intellectuals, celebrities and politicians, who hide behind circumstances and create ivory towers around ants. public knowledge and free exchange of ideas.

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