After mounting pressure from fans and the media, rap mogul Jay-Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter, fired back at his critics on his website on Saturday regarding the recent controversy over alleged racism charges that have been levied against the luxury store Barneys New York based on his business collaboration with the store, as he stated that he would like to be briefed with all of the facts first.
All of this stems from claims that two African-American, Barneys customers, Trayon Christian and Kayla Phillips, were apparently racially profiled and detained by police after they made expensive, legitimate purchases. Christian bought a $349 Ferragamo belt back in April, and Phillips bought a $2,500 Celine handbag back in February — prompting legal action and public dismay over charges of racial profiling by Barneys.
This prompted Barneys CEO, Mark Lee, to offer his “sincere regret and deepest apologies,” and Barneys announced last Thursday that it was acquiring a civil rights expert to examine its procedures.
From a public relations standpoint, it seems that Barneys is trying to protect its image and address its policy problems, but will it be enough?
This is why Jay-Z has been feeling the pressure as an online petition and Twitter messages from fans and critics circulated last week demanding that the rap star end his forthcoming, holiday partnership with Barneys — a deal that would have the store merchandising top selling items by elite designers inspired by Jay-Z.
In a statement Jay-Z said:
“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.”
“I am against discrimination of any kind but if I make snap judgments, no matter who it's towards, aren't I committing the same sin as someone who profiles?”
“I am no stranger to being profiled and I truly empathize with anyone that has been put in that position. Hopefully this brings forth a dialogue to effect real change.”
So Jay-Z says he understands discrimination and racial profiling, which he surely does, which is why he must understand the outrage of the black community with the alleged, “shop-and-frisk” policies of Barneys and other high-end stores like Macy's and the highly divisive “stop-and-frisk” policies of the New York Police Department.
If Jay-Z is thought to be too cozy with what many in the black community consider to be these ethnically shady establishments, it might not bode well for him going forward.
What is the true value of a $33,000 watch or a $2,500 handbag at Barneys or some other luxury store, if you have to sell your soul to the proverbial, white, affluent establishment to get it or to be allowed to sponsor it?
This is the question that African-Americans are asking the rap mogul, and it is a question that he will be forced to answer at some point, either by what he says or by what he doesn't say, regardless of the frequency or the transparency of the releasing of more facts, because in the minds of many in the black community, there are no more facts that are needed.
In the black community, the age-old narrative reads like it has been designed to read throughout the history of this country when it comes to being black, and that story goes accordingly.
Demonized, undervalued blacks go into an affluently perceived store that is supposed to be the playground for the rich and the white (Caucasian), and even though they make rightful purchases, not the highly expected thefts, the racist, white establishment is still not satisfied and believes that this kind of money coming from intrinsically subpar, black hands has to be tainted on some level.
It’s an age-old belief based on the undervaluing of black people that comes straight out of the Jim Crow era. This purported element of white supremacy based racism is exactly the same as the claims made by the super-rich Oprah Winfrey when she ignited a firestorm earlier this year when she accused a Swiss store of underestimating the depth of her lucrative pockets over an expensive item, because of stereotypical, age-old, inherently degenerative beliefs about the economic limitations and the overall limitation of being black, or in other words — Jim Crow international!
Irrespective of how Barneys treats poorly perceived, underestimated blacks, Barneys will survive. There is enough willing, available, non-minority money sitting around that will not abandon the brand. Barneys' character with the black community is on the line, but it is not on the line with enough of white America to count, and it certainly is not on the line with elite America.
Jay-Z on the other hand, has a legacy that is at stake, and there is no rhyme, no song, no amount of money, or no amount of inner city credentials that will suffice this time.
Only his answer will work for him now, and it needs to be the right one. Just look at the inscription on the photo of Jay-Z provided by diaryofahollywoodstreetking.com that reads: "I am Barneys new slave!"
The world of hip hop is a fierce, cutthroat world that is viscously judgmental and will not hesitate to go after Jay-Z if he is perceived to be kowtowing to a racist, white establishment that some are blatantly comparing to a modernized plantation, and the black community can be just as brutally unforgiving to anything it deems to be a sellout to appease a racist, white establishment.
Just ask comedian Sheryl Underwood about that.