New York has just posted a long and fascinating interview with Erykah Badu, who hasn’t released an album in eight years and who didn’t really have anything in particular to promote. Badu is, of course, a unique and sometimes wild person, and the interview goes in all sorts of different directions. She says that she likes XXXTentacion, she tells the story of why she stopped wearing a headwrap, she addresses the idea that she’s “some mystical creature” who controls rappers’ minds, and she correctly pegs interviewer David Marchese as a Pisces. But the part of the interview that’s immediately drawn the most attention, quite understandably, is the bit where Badu claims to see “something good in Hitler.”
This particular exchange comes as Badu answers a question about a time when she said something nice about Louis Farrakhan. Here’s the exchange:
BADU: I’m not an anti-Semitic person. I don’t even know what anti-Semitic was before I was called it. I’m a humanist. I see good in everybody. I saw something good in Hitler.
MARCHESE: Come again?
BADU: Yeah, I did. Hitler was a wonderful painter.
MARCHESE: No, he wasn’t! And even if he was, what would his skill as a painter have to do with any “good” in him?
BADU: Okay, he was a terrible painter. Poor thing. He had a terrible childhood. That means that when I’m looking at my daughter, Mars, I could imagine her being in someone else’s home and being treated so poorly, and what that could spawn. I see things like that. I guess it’s just the Pisces in me.
MARCHESE: I’m perfectly willing to accept that you might be operating on a higher moral plane than I am, but I think going down the route of “Hitler was a child once too” is maybe turning the idea of empathy into an empty abstraction.
BADU: Maybe so. It doesn’t test my limits — I can see this clearly. I don’t care if the whole group says something, I’m going to be honest. I know I don’t have the most popular opinion sometimes.
MARCHESE: But don’t you think that someone as evil as Hitler, who did what he did, has forfeited the right to other people’s empathy?
BADU: Why can’t I say what I’m saying? Because he did such terrible things?
MARCHESE: Well, yes. But it’s also disheartening to hear you say that at a time, like now, when racism and anti-Semitism are so much in the air. Why would you want to risk putting fuel on that fire?
BADU: You asked me a question. I could’ve chosen not to answer. I don’t walk around thinking about Hitler or Louis Farrakhan. But I understand what you’re saying: “Why would you want to risk fueling hateful thinking?” I have a platform, and I would never want to hurt people. I would never do that. I would never even imagine doing that. I would never even want a group of white men who believe that the Confederate flag is worth saving to feel bad. That’s not how I operate.
The whole conversation is very much worth reading, and you can do that here.