Jay Z Releases Statement About Racial Profiling & His Collaboration With Barneys

Last week, the mainstream media suddenly remembered racial profiling exists after a series of high-profile incidents in New York City. Unconnected to each other (as far as I know), several young Black people came forward about having been detained by police after shopping in department stores after they were accused of not reeeeally being able to afford the pricy items they bought.

Two were college students who were detained after they shopped at Barney’s, one for buying a Ferragamo belt and another for buying a handbag; another was actor Robert Brown from “Finding Forrester” and the TV show “Treme,” who was detained after he shopped at Macy’s. (He has subsequently filed a lawsuit against them.)  Even male supermodel Tyson Beckford spoke up about being racially profiled and “followed all the time, any time I go to a store,” including Barney’s.

In response, Barney’s agreed last week [third item] to meet with civil rights leaders to discuss the allegations of racial profiling. However, many folks were waiting on Jay Z, who sells a high-end collabortion through the store, to respond. He also became a target last week of a Change.org petition with over 16,000 signatures asking him to end his partnership with the store.

This weekend, Hova finally released a statement, although it is perhaps not what everyone would have liked to hear. 

Jay’s collaboration is called “A New York Holiday” and features limited edition products from high-end designers like Lanvin, Balenciaga, Proenza Schouler and Balmain, which will be available November 20. One-fourth of the proceeds will be donated to the Shawn Carter Foundation, an educational charity for underprivileged students. Jay led with those charitable donations in his statement, posted on his website, Life And Times:

This collaboration lives in a place of giving and is about the Foundation. I am not making a dime from this collection; I do not stand to make millions, as falsely reported. I need to make that fact crystal clear. The Shawn Carter Foundation is the beneficiary and the foundation is receiving 25% of all sales from the collaboration, 10% of all sales generated in the store on November 20th and an additional donation from Barneys. This money is going to help individuals facing socio-economic hardships to help further their education at institutions of higher learning. My idea was born out of creativity and charity … not profit.

The rest of Jay Z’s statement, however, is kind of … defensive:

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.

I am against discrimination of any kind, but if I make snap judgements, 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.

I can appreciate Jay Z’s carefulness in his response, which I assume is part of a larger strategy may be to try to use his powerful position to enact change from within. That’s legitimate, though it may not be everyone’s particular taste when pursuing social justice.  However, the complaints of the men and women in this New York Daily News piece that Jay didn’t condemn racial profiling strongly enough (but instead seemed to whine about being asked to respond) ring very true.  A lot of people expected more from Jay.  As someone who is “no stranger to being profiled” — I mean, the man did write “99 Problems” — it is an odd statement he released.

What do you think of Jay Z’s statement? Let us know in the comments.

[Life And Times]
[New York Daily News]

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