Sunday, October 27, 2013

Jay Z’s Presence at Barneys

“It’s what I call the re-niggerization of the Black professional class, where you have fear, you have a tremendous sense of being intimidated even though you have big money,” said West. “So you say to Brother Jay-Z, What are you risking? We don’t want to just see you successful, we appreciate it, we want to see you faithful to something bigger than you, and faith has to do with risking something. The only way you become de-niggerized and free is when you are willing to risk, when you’re willing to go against the grain, to show you’re not fearful, you’re not afraid. Unfortunately, Jay-Z at his worst is an example of folk who get so elevated that they don’t show courage and take a risk for something that is bigger than them.”
Cornel West on Black Agenda Report TV

“I think one of the great abuses of this modern time is that we should have had such high-profile artists, powerful celebrities. But they have turned their back on social responsibility,” he accused. “That goes for Jay-Z and Beyoncé, for example. Give me Bruce Springsteen, and now you’re talking. I really think he is black.
Harry Belafonte

"I’m offended by that because first of all, and this is going to sound arrogant, but my presence is charity. Just who I am. Just like Obama’s is."
Jay Z

Shawn Carter, aka Jay Z, is one of the most successful entertainers of this era. He is not only a top selling recording artist, but a businessman with stakes in sports, fashion and movies. He is also married to Beyonce Knowles, who is equally successful and a constant presence in every kind of media. They are a power couple, a brand in and of themselves.

Cornel West and Harry Belafonte sought in vain to engage the Carters in the kind of political activism which Belafonte and artists of his generation were known for. I admired the effort but knew that it was for naught. I never thought they had any interest in what West or Belafonte had to say and I've been proven right. Jay Z sold Occupy Wall Street themed t-shirts to make money, but didn't real think much of the OWS movement. He said he just didn't understand it.

He clearly didn't get it because he was quoted as saying that "we need less government" which is a strange statement coming from someone who directly profited from government intervention in getting the New York Nets a new stadium. The sad truth of the matter is that the day of the artist willing to take a stand on important issues has come to an end.

So unwilling is Mr. Carter, that he has been silent at a time when his name and reputation were linked to a business proven to have discriminated against black people. In the past week, two black people have come forward to report that after spending their money at the Barneys New York clothing store, they were stopped by and in one case detained by the police. They were both accused of using fake debit cards, asked where they got their money, where they lived and why they dared to cross the lilly white threshold of the luxury retailer.

The timing could not have been any worse for Jay Z. Barneys recently announced that their annual celebrity holiday shopping partner was, well guess who. A portion of the proceeds of the New York Holiday campaign would go to Carter's scholarship fund. The rest goes to Jay Z and Barneys.

Barneys was forced to issue not one, but two statements within 48 hours of the story breaking in the media. Jay Z took his time to respond on his website but when he did he sounded like the petulant injured party.

"I move and speak based on facts and not emotion. I haven’t made any comments because I am waiting on facts and the outcome of a meeting between community leaders and Barneys. Why am I being demonized, denounced and thrown on the cover of a newspaper for not speaking immediately? The negligent, erroneous reports and attacks on my character, intentions, and the spirit of this collaboration have forced me into a statement I didn’t want to make without the full facts. Making a decision prematurely to pull out of this project, wouldn’t hurt Barneys or Shawn Carter, but all the people that stand a chance at higher education. I have been working with my team ever since the situation was brought to my attention to get to the bottom of these incidents and at the same time find a solution that doesn’t harm all those that stand to benefit from this collaboration."

Defensive much? Despite Mr. Carter's assertions, the facts are quite clear. Black shoppers spent their money in Barneys only to be treated as if they were shop lifters. The only honorable thing for him to do is cancel his collaboration. If his mere presence is charity, then he can give scholarships without doing business with Barneys. All he has to do is write a check. Problem solved.

So Belafonte and West have been proven right. Jay Z is of the money, by the money and for the money. He has enough of it to give up this bad deal with Barneys but he won't. Jay Z doesn't care about black people.