Harry Belafonte Was Right About Jay-Z

Harry-Belafonte

Jay-ZWith the current controversy surrounding high-end retail store Barneys and racial profiling allegations, one thing stands evident. Harry Belafonte was right about Jay-Z. In the midst of this controversy, fans have called on Jay-Z to end his partnership with Barneys, in which his new holiday fashion line is going to be sold. Jay-Z’s response has been a calculated public relations effort in which he negates any real responsibility to his default, “I’m doing it for charity” statement. Currently, Jay-Z is continuing his partnership with Barneys with his collection set to launch next week.

This “doing it for charity” response only further highlights Jay-Z’s disconnect with the masses that he often claims to represent. This notion of accepting racism in exchange for charity is downright laughable. If a charity is supposed to be helping people, why work with a store that appears to marginalize his own fan base due to class and race perceptions. Now, Jay-Z claims he’s being demonized for his partnership with Barneys. He’s not being demonized. He’s being realized.

This is where Harry Belafonte comes in. Months ago Belafonte called on Jay-Z to play a more active role in social movements and help to drive social change. Jay-Z’s response was to refer to the 86-year old civil rights icon as “boy.” Jay-Z went on to state that due to his mega star status, his very presence was “charity.”

Harry Belafonte’s critiques were not superfluous statements. They were part of an insightful analysis of how star power can be used to affect societal movements. With over 50 years of civil rights activism, Belafonte can spot both genuine and superficial involvement. The latter, is what Jay-Z is often engaged in. This superficial support of “the people” is laden with corporate driven interests.

For example, during the height of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, Jay-Z decided to make a t-shirt line based on slogans from the movement. His plans changed, once Occupy Wall Street activists asked if he would share the profits. The idea of having to share the profits (which would have helped provide much needed financial support to activists) was unthinkable to the hip-hop mogul.

Then, there’s the controversy that surrounded 2010 tax records from The Shawn Carter Scholarship Fund. During that year he reportedly earned, over $63 million but only donated roughly $6,000 to his own charity. This is not a normal practice for charity founders, who often provide a large portion of their charities’ financial costs. Out of all donors, Jay-Z reportedly gave the lowest donation to his own cause.

Finally, there is the N*ggas in Paris fiasco in which his friend Gwyneth Paltrow, decided to tweet the title of the song after attending his concert. This resulted in Twitter backlash over her usage of the term. Jay-Z, who is an enthusiastic advocate for the usage of the N-word, was silent on the controversy. Having millions among his fan base embrace the N-word is a part of his crossover hood status appeal that provides further economic security.

According to the Recording Industry Association of America, in 2012 White/Caucasian audiences represented 79% of music buys, 81% of CD buyers and 80% of digital buyers. So don’t expect Jay-Z to engage in any significant dialogue with fans about using the word. With him it’s the same old, “people give words power” and “this is the least racist generation” excuse. It’s not economically feasible for him or any other corporately invested hip-hop artist to do anymore than brush off the issue. Yet this is someone people expect to fully grasp or care about race related issues?

The African American community  has to get beyond this belief that just because someone from our community attains fame or wealth, that they’re somehow intellectually superior, a role model and someone to be admired. The same can be said for Russell Simmons with his Rush Card, Blood Diamond, and Harriet Tubman controversies. And Kanye West, who often laments about racism but strives to uphold the same materialistic values that help drive economic disparities. Do you really expect any of them to be deeply invested in activism against a classist system from which they benefit?

Harry Belafonte was right. Jay-Z isn’t genuinely standing up against racism or classism because this activism may affect profit margin (something he learned while selling crack).

JamAllen2-nb-smallJessica Ann Mitchell is the founder of OurLegaci.com & BlackBloggersConnect.com. To reach JAM, email her at OurLegaci@gmail.com.

Follow OurLegaci on Facebook at Facebook.com/OurLegaci.

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677 thoughts on “Harry Belafonte Was Right About Jay-Z

  1. I believe the best way to deal with this character jz we must boycott him and all he stands for. The Bible says it is foolish for a poor man to give a rich man his money. I’m sure there are many of us who are poor compared to this man’s riches…keeping all things in context. I have never followed this man in anything after all he thinks he is Yah. BOYCOTT…..that’s the only way to make this man move in the right direction.

    • OK – Enough of the lazy finger pointing and blame game. Jay Z has never claimed to be anything more than a rapper and a business man. He cares very little about civil rights and uses the N word because it’s “just a word”. He is a business man – not an activist. Stop looking at him to promote social change while you sit behind your computer furiously typing a one sided argument. He is where he is because he wanted it badly enough. If you want social change badly enough, it will happen. Malcolm X, Dr Martin Luther King and others wanted it and fought for it. Bloggger “Slacktivism” gets us nowhere.

      • Lift your veil of ignorance, as soon as you wake from your dream. Only then will you be able to scratch beneath the surface and find truth. He is a business man indeed; he’s also very rich. When a person lets money and riches delegate their very position so that they can remain in the continued higher economic margin despite defiance of morality speaks volumes. I have more respect for the poor man who walks with his head held high because he has a structured basis of genuine morality. Real wealth is a non defiance of human decency and ethics, it’s what separates us from the animals. This company that feeds his pockets comes from people who have a lower economic status which makes him continually sustain his status. Then, he turns around and gives us the middle finger. His priorities and your sense of perception are on the same level and you don’t have to be an activist to determine that.

      • You are so ignorant its not funny and because of ppl like you social change won’t happen. This article is very insightful to the issues of stars using there power to evoke change within a community that supports this man and faces racism for chasing the material lifestyle he sells!!! If blacks can’t go in Barney’s to shop and be dealt with racially who’s gonna by his clothes because it won’t be white ppl. I guess these demons forget they are where they are because of certain Malcolm, Martin individuals. How dare you insult are ancestors with such ignorance!!!!! He doesn’t have to be a activist but a least he could show the ppl that put money in his pockets some respect and loyalty and not sell his items in stores where his supporters will be arrested. Or maybe he has stock in private prisons like Michael Jordan and needs slave labour to produce his items cheaper like the rest

      • No he has never claimed to be anything, but the one thing he was given without any need to claim is the label of a black man, of which he is first and last. I don’t expect every black or African American person who makes it to jump in for civil right because many are still ignorant to many facts about the race; I will need them to first educate themselves about civil issues of mankind as a whole, and then educate others. Everyone is not cut out to be a civil rights leader and that’s fine, just don’t use your miseducation or lack of humility to propel your own personal haterid into impressionable minds. With success comes responsibility!

      • This is not something to be taken lightly- nor is this a deformation of Jay Z’s character- nor is it redundant- this is truth- he has always talked about uplifting the black community he has painted himself as an activist- have you even heard “Watch The Throne” – this article is very necessary because it informs anyone that reads before and while they hold a position of heavy influence to remember not to support “halfway” – this article is to increase attention in the black community to a problem that’s on going- I only hope if not me, this reaches someone who is soon to be at the top level of fame – so that we can see change ——love Chosen CTW —- google me

      • I wonder did you read what you wrote, and whats more amazing than that, do actually believe what you wrote. The Bible says to much is given, to much is required I know I am paraphrasing, but God do not bless us for the blessing to stay only to ourselves. I know that J-Z and many other superstars and people of the norm work hard become successful. you said that “J-z is where he is because he wanted it badly enough” do you really think that I or many other people didn’t want it bad enough “success” Again the Bible say “Many are called but few have been chosen” The also says that ” All things work together for the good of them that love the Lord and Called to God purpose” You see if Jay-Z and many more, who are in the position to make social change for a people who are in a marginalized society fail to be a voice then please tell me what was the purpose in life????

      • Recently Common and Kanye announced an initiative to help one thousand young men in Chicago with jobs. This is a testament to the power of economic success when used responsibly, I’m certain that these two men have their own share of luxuries but they also seem mindful of the devastation that has been done to our community. Imagine if we were able to take the combined wealth and resources (not all, just a portion) of black celebrity, athletes, doctors, lawyers…etc and devoted ourselves to helping our own. The merry-go-round that keeps young blacks in a perpetual system of poverty and re-instituted slavery would be slowed.

    • Why do black folks have to tell someone what they should do with their hard earn money. Just because you beleive in a cause does not mean everyone else must beleive in your cause. We should not be shopping at a place like Barneys anyway. Take a look at thier prices $500.00 shirts on sale $800 shoes. If you are not worth a million dollars you have no business shopping there. We should all teach our kids the value of a dollor, how to invest their money in something other than clothes. These kids listen to Hip Hop with rappers talking about what they have Benz’s, Bentley’s popping bottles sitting in VIP. And they become their roll models so now they want to do what they do. Why should Jay remove his name from Barneys. Not that many black people shop there and some of the blacks that do shouldn’t. We get so caught up with the White man’s over priced labels.

      • I don’t understand people sometimes we created this monster the guy was a drug dealer he created crack kids and now we expect him to save them he started his businesses via drug money and we supported him with our hard earned change. this is a man who grew up without a father but does not live with his son.this is a man who killed the hip hop of Public Enemy and so on which was uplifting to the rest of the human race and sold our people a dream that most of us we’ll never wake up from all in the name of being hustler. I rest my case.

  2. Look as a minority what I do find offensive is to generalize an entire organization for the fault of a few ignorant employees. I have been watched myself in high end stores…and I dare say most of us with some color have, so does that mean we boycott the corner grocery store because Koreans suspect us? Nonsense.

    The harsh reality I that sometimes establishments such as stores and/or employees falsely profile us because of past experiences. Simple truth. I would wager that if a particular store has a history of young Asian males robbing them that’s exactly who they would target. With that said, do I think they were inappropriate? 100% absolutely they went too far however, breaking his relationship with a store that doesn’t traditionally have a relationship with black or urban designers is just foolish and hurts others in the process.

    My black brothers and sisters have to stop that “blame the man” approach to stupidity and not hold the “company” at fault. Let’s take responsibility and teach our youth to not rob and steal so it doesn’t effect the whole group. I’m all about race, ethnic & cultural pride but WE have to be the bigger one and sometimes blame the individuals involved and not the group. We have that luxury and can teach corporate America and those whites that are in charge this is how it should be handled. If we want change punishment and or spite is not the way. Attacking Jay Z is not the answer. Demanding justice and seeking an outreach from Barney’s is. Enough with the “sell out” ridiculousness. We earn respect through our ability to play by business rules. Let’s face it. Socio-economic strength somehow seems to trump racism. Ask Michael Jordan or King James as white America bows to whatever they say. But there will also be ignorant people. Just ask Oprah when she was insulted by someone who didn’t recognize her in her shopping spree a while back in Hollywood.

    • As a civil rights attorney who has litigated many discrimination cases I find that it’s rare that a few employees tarnish the name of a large company. Generally, there is a corporate culture that has trained employees particularly in the areas of loss prevention. Profiles are developed and certain groups are characterized as high risk. Ironically, however while those companies focus on a particular race and profile it is others that routinely clean out the store and create substantial losses right under their noses. As a result it is a misnomer for Barneys or any other major chain to profile.

      I think you are incorrect when you say we can’t blame the company when it is the company that might allow certain practices to become imbedded in its culture. When a black person comes into a store and purchases an expensive item and is type cast because he/she obviously is involved in some kind of theft then there is a problem and not simply blaming the man. Barney’s employees weren’t acting independently. I can assure you that they were acting in response to the company’s guidelines that tells employees to scrutinize these transactions when it “appears” that the person making the purchase doesn’t seem financially able to do so, i.e. black, Hispanic, or young.

      • Sure, you’re a civil right attorney making comments on the internet in the middle of the day… *rolls eyes*

      • Using your analogy then I can assume you’re unemployed and using the Internet at the library. Look we don’t get anywhere trading insults or being skeptical. My only purpose was to share with you and possibly others my own experience as a lawyer with 35 years experience in civil rights law. As an older black man I believe its important to share knowledge and experiences. I’m sorry that you are so sensitive that someone challenged your post and its reasoning and your only response is skepticism and doubt. Hey, many lawyers play golf in the middle of the day because we’ve earned the right, which by the way I’m getting ready to go and play. See you on the back nine, my friend.

      • Thumbs up to your (Darryl) original post and response post.hope u had a good game. I do agree to the point made on embedded company culture having an impact on daily operations. It takes us to the root of the situation.

    • Are you for real, the brands that Jay Z are endorsing at Barneys are not urban designers, they are all high end designers that most of us can’t afford. I very proud of black people for holding or own brothers and sister responsible for selling us out for a dollar, nothing in that deal with Barney’s help brown people at all, hello did you not read the article Jay-Z only donated $6000 to his own charity. SMH come on man you can be a fan but don’t be a fook

      • Trying to prove to another that “HEY I CAN BE JUST LIKE YOU AND DO WHAT YOU DO” Is just a subtle way of admitting you had felt inferior at some point in time.With this said,If you feel offended I guess the shoe fits

    • Socioeconomics trump racism…lmao. Socioeconomics are rooted in racism…learn the truth u sound silly saying that to those with african centered thought but u sound brilliant to those who yearn to be filtered into white mainstream!!!!

    • If the civil rights leaders of Mr. Belafonte’s generation thought like you did we would not have made the advances that have been made. When someone becomes famous they are willingly or unwillingly the voice of a generation. I am disgustingly embarrassed that Jay-Z is associated with mine.

    • I agree with Jay jay Santiago. Why do people expect Jay-z To cancel business with a corporation because of an employee? Everyone jumping down Jay-Z’s throat when nobody is saying: ” hey everybody… don’t go shopping at Barneys”. Noooooooo nooooo put the responsibility on the rich guy. Because he has money and is a public figure, its his responsibility? I wouldn’t cancel business either. At the same time I would be concerned with how Barneys handled that employee. We sit and complain so much about what others aren’t doing when we sit and do nothing ourselves. We a black people hate when we get profiled because of one ignorant persons actions but yet in this situation it seems as if we are asking Jay to profile a whole company because of one jackass. that’s my take on it. You don’t like them or Jay-Z, simply don’t shop there.

    • You sound very foolish, why would you not boycott if they watch you and think of you in that way, Why cant you just find somewhere to shop who appreciates your business, why do we have to settle for maltreatment all the time, this is the problem now we make people rich who don’t respect us and could careless about us. There is a thing called supply and demand, if we stop going to some of these places , especially those who set up in our neighborhoods, they would soon pack and leave because the money would not be there for them to stay. If we don’t stand for something , we as a people will fall for everything and will yet continued to be exploited by other races. Demand your respect , we work hard for our money too and I am not about to give my money to an establishment who does not respect me as a human being …

  3. Since when is Jay-Z an activist? Since when is Jay-Z suddenly reasonable for the black community? The only thing Jay-Z has ever claimed to be was a hustler. So I don’t understand what the deal is with writing such a pointless article. He’s an entertainer, not a politician or an activist.

    • I agree. He never claimed to care. His job was to make money. He never claimed humanitarian. People expect much from those with wealth or riches. To each his own. Not to share with others. People need not expect saviors out of these humans. That’s not why they are rich. It is by keeping what they have. Do I have money like them No. Will i ever? Most likely not. I never expect them to save me and mine. It is my job.

  4. I donot know jz from any other hip hop singer but, I do agree with Harry some of our young blk stars are not real because they really donot know who they are.
    They talk the talk but have fail to walk the walk

    • I bet you believe all black hiphop artist are the same, this has nothing to do with black hiphop, this has everything to do with a person. I think they know who they are and they are trying to forget it, but some would love for them to go back to the way things were

  5. I think we are missing the point here, we should not attach jayz because he did not do what we wanted him to do. Our whole movement is to join together, but have our own mind to think and make our own choices. I think jayz has made his choice, and we should respect that. My ideology towards mass murders is to kill yourself, in other words take responsibility into your own hands and others will join. As for jayz, forget him, keep moving , and your messages should be about the issue do not lose focus

    • Really? Its not about what people want him to do, its about what he pretends to do and be that is the problem ! Be real and don’t hide behind “charity” when you know its about personal gain.

      They need to not support him and as you stated keep moving …..

  6. Jay Z nor his wife can win with Black folks simply because we are so divided by so many interests. Some of the same folks lauding Harry Belafonte for taking “Hova” to task are the very same ones that throw a fit when a Black man dates outside the race. I too felt that Jigga should have ended his relationship with Barneys but I respect his right to decide for his interests and reasons. This is a reasonable article and Harry Belafonte was right in expecting more for today’s celebrity icons, they also have a right to do their own thing. A right they have earned by hard work and good decisions for the most part. That a young Black man from the projects with a basic high school education and a history of drug sales could parlay those experiences through music and become a companion to the POTUS and some of the most influential people of these times is laudable. Much respect to Jay and his lovely wife. I’ve met both briefly and was amazed how kool and what beautiful spirits they were in person. This very same couple who got married and then had a child, was subject to rumors from among our own that she didn’t give birth. Don’t blame him if he rejects our counsel. He has a pretty good head on his shoulders. Hasn’t he proved that?

    • I have nor will ever be enthusiastic about a drug dealer’s success. I doubt he is a real companion of the POTUS; he was used for a purpose since you think so highly of him. If it got those ignorant enough to praise a dealer who fed off his community, which you appreciate about his success; then why not have him at the forefront of his campaign? If it was someone else with like status then they would’ve been there in lieu of J and his pop star wife. If your thoughts carry weight on how children now are raised; no wonder the Black community has so many problems.

    • SMH , REALLY? PEOPLE NEED TO JUST BE REAL , WHEN PEOPLE SUPPORT YOU , THERE IS A RESPONSIBILITY THAT COMES WITH IT … YES HE IS JUST LIKE THE REST OF THOSE HE HOB NOBS WITH IN CORPORATE …

  7. This is a well written piece, but I do not agree with the author. I am very proud of Jayz’s accomplishments, He came from a very dark place, but rose above it to become the very very rich man he is today. He is married to a beautiful black woman and seems to be a loving father. Black people have their priorities so mixed up, we should be more concerned with the black people who go in these stores and steal and give us all a bad name and stop worrying about Jayz because he won’t take a stand on profiling. Please write a piece on all these young black kids raising themselves and teenage pregnancy and black on black crime, drugs in the black community, high school drop outs, black men in prison and wealthy black men taking their money out the black community giving it to white women and their families. That situation with profiling, I think is warranted and Jayz probably knows it, unfortunately their are a lot of thieves in the black community and we all suffer because of it.

    • If u dont stand for something u will fall fo anything. J has made his stand for money. Same mentality he had as a drug dealer.
      Also there was nothing wrong with mr.belafonte challenging j because occasionally when challenged people will rise to meet it.

    • He also has a son from a previous woman with which he has NO relationship with! I don’t call that being a good father.

    • Matter of fact he is so uninvolved with this child who reaped no benefit from who his father is, that most people don’t even know about it. I could care less what he does with his money or what business choices he is making but when you have a child and completely disregard them, that is pretty scumbag to me. I’m not a fan whatsoever.

      • The mother got paid off to move back to her own country and he doesn’t bother with the child so momma got paid daddy got off the hook and the child gets table scraps and to grow up not knowing his father… Why you ask?

        Because Jays beloved Mrs. Carter wasn’t having it…. so like the story goes p u s s y really does rule kings and paupers. SMH you people need to wake up and realize these celebs are no different than the average knucklehead except they usually don’t get where they are without being especially ruthless. and stepping on a lotta necks on the way up the ladder.

  8. so now we have to criticize everyone who makes money about their social responsibility? we pick and choose who we like or dislike. There is plenty of people with much more money than Jay Z. are we hauling them in to check out their social responsibility? Why can’t Jay just be a capitalist? why can’t he just make money for money’s sake? Rich White people have been doing it for years and we don’t complain about their social responsibility. Lat Jay do JAy and leave the social responsibility to your own lives.

  9. I dont expect JayZ, rapper, entertainer, former crack-rock slinger to do ANYTHING expected by “y’all”. He has a foundation that puts kids through school and helps a GRIP of urban youth. The NYPD stopped these people and an NYC Barney’s employee potentially caused the problems.. should Jay have them lose their jobs? Shouldnt the people of NYC be asking for them to lose their jobs? Jay could probably do SOMETHING more.. but, I dont mind what he has done.

  10. Well put. Couldn’t agree more. No beat is hot enough to support the classism, materialism and misogyny he spews. I mean really, how in touch can a man be with his community if he makes a song about Tom Ford? But the fact of the matter is Jay-Z has always been this way. I think I’m more surprised that anyone expected him to act any other way. He has always been concerned with his own bottom line (which in fairness he is allowed to do). We just can’t suddenly expect him to be an activists when he has NEVER been genuinely concerned (not to the degree where he might lose money). He will only change when people withdraw financial support. Then and only then will Jay-Z have a “change of heart.”

  11. It’s crazy how people are putting so much focus on this conversation about barneys, racism and entertainers, but have the least opinions about black on black crime which is at a alarming rate amongst our youth and steadily putting our people at a decline in population in America. Instead lets talk about how rappers don’t do enough and how they only care about profit gains from big corporate companies, but yet the people who rob us take away our rights and do close to little for us economically which is the United States government its okay. Its fine that they raise taxes and take away more and more programs that we benefit from and close schools everyday but yet they have all the money in the world billions amongst billions of our money that they play with and then tell us that their in debt. When in reality all they do is laugh at us as we point our fingers at rappers and entertainers for everything which changes nothing.. So my opinion is that Harry Belafonte definietly got it wrong

  12. While others may want to label him a sell out, he is a smart businessman and it is not up to him to stop racism. He is right, this is the least racist generation to date, which is common sense. Every generation forward will continue to be more tolerable and less racist. Look at the gay rights movement we are seeing, our childrens children will think it was crazy that we were racist against the gay population for so long. Yet hip hop has such a stigma against gays, and continually use the word “Gay” and “faggot” in their lyrics. People are quick to yell out racism, but are practicing in racism themselves. Why should Jay Z have to speak out against racism? There is always going to be racism in some shape or form. If I were to walk through a “black” part of the city, I would expect to experience some sort of racist comment or stereotype. People are quick to label a stereotype as racism. I play basketball at parks and sometimes I am the only white guy, I will sometimes get stereotyped as white boy or they will assume I can’t jump. I am being stereotyped, it’s life, this is their perception of how white guys are talent wise at basketball. I don’t think they are being racist. In a lot of this country, a higher percentage of crime is committed by the black population. So therefore the white population and business owners will stereotype black people and won’t want to do business with them or sell their product or want their consumers. This does not mean that they are racist and do not have respect for a whole race. Until the black crime rate comes down to par with the white crime rate, expect this to stay. It is not up to Jay Z to stop this, it is up to the whole black community to become better parents, and stop their kids from growing up to become criminals or rely on welfare.

    • Unfortunately Ryan your support of Carter is flawed and it was clear that you cannot empathize with the general attitude of the African-American community. First of all, the complaint is that Carter like any other person, black or white, should not sit by silently when a racist event occurs. If you do you become part of the problem. The same holds true if I’m at the basketball court or on the subway and someone makes a racist statement about you, or worse, makes an overt action to threaten you because you are white. If I say nothing or do nothing then I only perpetuate the racist attitudes and I allow these things to happen. Under that circumstance my defense of you will not end racism but maybe, perhaps it will make those who hold those attitudes think and understand that it is not OK to act this way.

      Carter is the man on the subway or the basketball court who can take a courageous position and tell those who offend that he will not tolerate their actions. At the end of the day the person (Barney’s/ and or its employees) may still maintain the same views but it’s possible they’ll think first before they act and not call the police when a young black person has the financial wherewithal to buy an expensive item.

      Finally, your assumptions about blacks and crime and welfare are misplaced. There are more white people on welfare than blacks in actual numbers and corporate welfare, entitlements and political gifts far outstrip any entitlements given to blacks. Crime, while unjustifiable is an offshoot of racist policies and practices that have been maintained in this nation for 200 years. If we as a nation live in fear and base our decisions on stereotypes then as I black man I should fear every young white male who wears a long black coat and plays violent video games because stereotypes say that person is a mass murderer and I must shield my children from older white males because they fit the stereotype of a pedophile. Your premise that blacks commit more crime is based on the fact that blacks are more heavily policed, are profiled and are more likely to go to prison for the same crimes committed by whites. The irony is that while stores are watching blacks when they enter there are whites who are stealing them blind.

      • Well done Darryl! Ryan, after reading your statement I believe you are young or very mis-guided. When you get some free time, please look up the definition of racism. I am asking with a sincere heart. There are so many psychological factors and socio-economic issues that come into play when analyzing the black community. I wish the solution was as simple as the “community parenting skills” LOL . I really enjoyed this article. The author has given me a lot to think about. I am a fan of Jay Z, he has a large body of work. Some songs have great messages and some do not. I don’t agree with everything he does, especially his viewpoint on the N word!! I think his body of music represents a large population with different perspectives. …just like the comments on this post. I really wish he would have took a different stand, but he did not. He made the choice that was best for him and his brand. I hope as he matures, he will start to model himself more after Harry Belafonte, but I’m not going to loose sleep if he doesn’t. He is not the God I serve, or my role model, he is just a man who happens to be an artist and business man with a platform at his disposal. I will continue to NOT shop at Barneys or anyplace where I feel mis-treated. I will continue to try to educate any child I come into contact with, about the value of integrity and good character. The importance and value of good education and getting to know people beyond their skin color. Last but certainly not least, help people to get their priorities in order! Basic necessities like shelter and safety are more important than an MCM handbag! For all of the people who did not like what happened in Barneys, the real question should not be about Jay Z it should be about you? What are YOU going to do about it? We may not be celebrities, but we all can make small changes everyday in our life, that can make a huge impact! It only takes one individual to start a movement and you don’t have to be a rich celebrity.

    • Ryan, thank you for the Pseudo-intellectual response. It’s one thing to speak from experience and a whole other to speak from hypothesis. “If I were to walk through a “black” part of the city, I would expect to experience some sort of racist comment or stereotype.” Really, so you think Black people have nothing better to do than wait for a White person to walk through the ‘Hood so that they can insult them? What, do you think Black people are just naturally predisposed to being uncivilized? Maybe you should get out more.

      You add absolutely nothing to a conversation when you base things on regurgitated stereotypes. “I can’t jump while playing basketball.”

      To quote Jim Kelley from Enter The Dragon: “Man, you come right out of a comic book. “

  13. HARRY IA RIGHT ABOUT THIS DUDE ANYTHING THAT AFFECTS HIS CASH FLOW HE RUN OR GET SILENT ON THE MATTER , JUST LOOK AT FOXY BROWNS SITUATION AND THERE IS OTHER ,WHERE ONCE THE SITUATION DEVELOPED INTO A NEGATIVE HE RUN LEAVE THOSE ARTIST , WE ALL HEAR OF HIM BEING APART OF THE FREE MANSON SO WHAT WE ALL EXPECT WHEN IT COMES TO SELLING YOU AND ANY OTHER ONE OUT TO MAKE THAT MONEY FOR HIS OWN PURPOSE .

  14. Ms. Mitchell — Thank you for a well-written article, full of common sense. I too have grown really tired of Jay Z and the press he receives for nothing meaningful. I can’t believe that he received so many Grammy noms…I know that he is talented, but PLEASE!!!!

  15. Shawn Carter is a capitalist! He’s made that very clear since Reasonable Doubt dropped 17 years ago. He’s not a race man nor does he intend on becoming one. He sold crack cocaine and heroine to his own people for over a decade, so to expect him to abandon his goal of making the Forbes’ billionaires list in the name of racial progression is ludicrous and, quite frankly, unintelligent. Would I like to see him investing more in African American communities? Absolutely! The reality is that there’s no solid financial foundation to build upon in black communities at large, so the risk of investing is extremely high. As a businessman, which he clearly is, he’s going to do the best thing for his bottom line. Philanthropy isn’t one of those things. Taking up arms to fight the good fight isn’t one of those things either. So let’s not expect him to be something that he isn’t and focus our energies into those who will undoubtedly place the welfare of the race before their own.

  16. This only reinforces one my fundamental beliefs as parent – we, as parents must set the standard for our children’s foundation. It is sheer folly to think that wealth and celebrity status automatically mean the ability the respect the past while making positive contributions to the present. They entertain and at best this is fleeting. We are responsible to generate discourse with our children and prevent them from getting absorbed into the world which thinks that a $70 T-Shirt of a $350 belt makes them better person.

  17. Jay-Z is obviously not politically conscious. Just look at his track record and his music catalog. Why people expect him to be socially conscious is beyond me. Are white artists expected to be socially conscious? NEVER… Now don’t misconstrue my words to mean I don’t WANT Jay-Z to be down for or with the struggle… Lord knows I do… But we cannot put that burden on anyone if their heart is not in it. Jay-Z does more for the black community than most (not all but way more than 90% of) white stars who on average give nothing to black social issues. He does what he does (arguably not enough) in his own way. Who are we to demand more? Do I say this all with regret that I am right? Of course I do. I wish with all my heart that he would give back to the community in a major way… But that just ain’t in him, at least not now.

    As to his treatment of Harry Belafonte… I was not happy with that… But I must agree with him. Why didn’t Mr. Belafonte contact him in private and school the man? I bet dollars to donuts the potential to make a positive impact had infinitely more potential if he had. Jay-Z is mentally half businessman, half ghettoized thug… Do you think if Harry Belafonte went into the projects and made fun of or embarrassed the crack dealers, or the lazy people living off the system on the park benches (not saying everyone on the projects are lazy or living off the system, but just like in any low income area regardless of race there are) he would leave there unharmed or without being insulted??? Jay-Z is not mentally any different than those hyper defensive machismo testosterone driven guys. His response was beyond predictable, it was almost expected.

    We black folk need to wake the hell up and smell the coffee… Not everyone is socially conscious… And we almost need to be happy about it cause there would be a racist backlash like you would never imagine if we were. Whites are already quick to turn on the Congressional Black Caucus, Miss Black America, BET, UNCF, NAACP and the Fraternal Order of black Policemen, etc… Imagine if all black stars started advocating black causes and issues??? Advocacy of any kind in the minority is not perceived as a threat… When among the masses it is usually exterminated and eradicated…. Ask Marcus Garvey how well that turned out for him.

  18. I’m bored with this subject; it’s sensational fluff. Instead of focusing on someone who’s clearly in the public eye – suggesting that they should be more socially responsible – how about WE take some responsibility for our actions and be more socially responsible? It’s easy to be aware of the problems that exist, but how many of us are doing for our own communities; how many of us are being proactive and getting members of the community together, to do something positive?

    It’s easy to troll and wag fingers, but isn’t anyone else tired of this pointing fingers shite? I don’t know how one person is responsible for all of us; Jay-Z’s his own person, with his own responsibilities. I don’t know him from a hole in the wall – I’ve loved his music up to American Gangster – but I never expected him to represent me in any way, shape or form.

    Discrimination in retail stores, is no new topic and to tell someone else what to do with their money is *fill in the blank* How much of your income do you set aside for another cause outside of yourselves? If the answer is none, just stop.

    • I take responsibility EVERY day—volunteering, starting a nonprofit, chosing to work for a socially responsible investment company for less pay, mentoring and advising young people—yet my actions are like swimming upstream when our community values and prevailing cultural norms are being set by hustlers, hucksters and harlots.

      We are the only community that accepts the notion that people who look like us and have succeeded because of us (white people wouldn’t be buying Jay-Z’s stuff if black hadn’t essentially “endorsed” his music early on) have no accountability to us and shouldn’t give back to us.

    • I agree with Nicolas. Misters Carter, West, and Simmons, in the rarified atmosphere of their wealth and its privilege are more interested in continuing its acquisition than in reaching back. They don’t want to be reminded of whence they came for fear they may return. They have more money than they could spend in three lifetimes, and they want to keep it like that. Expect nothing from them; other than money (which they intend to hold onto), they’ve nothing to give.

  19. Pingback: Harry Belafonte Was Right About Jay-Z | Our Legaci | [Modern Times]
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  21. It would be great if HOV was more socially active and involved in the black community, but I don’t think it is a mandate for every entertainer. I appreciate that those without a well thought out platform, contribute in other ways, even if it’s not a highly visible one. No offense, but I would not want Puffy telling me what’s vital in my community, simply because he’s successful. By that argument, any successful rapper would now have a platform. I won’t vote for anyone the Ying Yang Twins tell me I should! As for Barney’s Department store, are we certain that the profiling incidents are a company directive, or just the poor judgement of some employees and security reps. I will not begrudge Jay Z from making money with them. I actually encourage him to be apart of changing the dynamic of the company, if he’s able. He recently stated in one if his songs, ‘it says a lot about you, if you’re not fellin us!’ I certainly think that some of us are tearing him down, simply to watch what happens. If the criticism was coming from white circles of power, we’d be quick to his defense.

  22. For me, the issues with Jay-Z goes far beyond racial issues. To call him a sell-out–well, what do you expect? Most “celebs” are. But they “sold-out” loooong before they got to where they are…they had to sell out just to catch the bus to their destination and frankly that’s all it is, they’re not driving and not in control. They had to ride in the back for a bit and prove themselves worthy. Sure, there’s a lot they could do, but they won’t because keeping their puppet strings tight is serious sh*t. Ok so let’s think about this. So they got fame & riches and now you think that should translate into community action? They got on the inside track now and they see the paradigm for what it is. Doing their master’s bidding is all that is required to stay atop their cloud. They sold their soul for this sh*t. On the outside, It’s quite discouraging to see so much attention given to someone of such little character. The overwhelming blasphemous nature of Jay-Z and Kanye’s work (Jay-z=Jesus, Hova=Jehovah, Yeezus, so much more) and their boldly freemasonic & occult/satanic garbage that they continue to incorporate in their music & concerts is reprehensible. Even Beyonce’s gotten in on the act. Watch her be taken over at the Superbowl performance. Selling your soul to the devil for fame is what its really all about. Youtube has tons of videos analyzing this, the truth is out there. But right in front of your eyes, all you’re seeing is lies! Poison is unacceptable in any form

  23. This is sad but true. It’s irritating that people actually think he is a role model. Really??? He needs to step up. Music has much influence than we think especially in black culture.

  24. I didn’t know Jay-Z “represented” me. Really? It makes me no never mind about Barney’s policy. I won’t shop there. Thats the best protest I can make. If they don’t want my Black skin or Black money, thats fine too. I will not protest to make them take it. I don’t have to buy Jay-Zs trash music either.

  25. 1) One cannot just break a contract with a multi million dollar corporation. We don’t know the contract that he signed but I’m guessing if he didn’t pull out, he couldn’t without risking a very large lawsuit in the process. Jay-Z has MANY money streams and as he’s said the money from Barneys isn’t going into his pockets. He’s become an agent for athletes and is now representing and pocketing 10% of some of the nations top earners in sports. He’s set to add at least $200 million to his income through this. He doesn’t need Barneys, Barneys needs him.

    2) Mostly white people shop at Barneys and the money they spend will go to send poor black students in Brooklyn to college. Why should we stop that? You want to wreck some kids chances at school for a small moment in social activism? There are 1000 other cases that we could all rally behind where black people are abused. How about we rally behind the youths who were shot at for loud music. Or the 2 black men and 1 latino man who magically shot themselves in the head while handcuffed behind the back in police cars. Or the black man who was shot when he called the police about a fire, or the woman who was murdered on the porch of a man while trying to seek help. We want this 1 situation to stop because it’s high profile and it’s only high profile because of jay-z when it’s a situation that is HELPING people. I would rather keep this connection and the white rich fans of jay-z spend their money to fund black college education. We don’t NEED to rally behind rich black people, we MUST rally behind the people in the US who are being harmed! All of the black millionaires in this country are above the level where these atrocities are happening. It is not the era of the civil rights movement and belefonte doesn’t understand that how we are dealing with race now is completely different than it was in the 60’s. The movement is not the same.

    3) Barneys “could” be telling the truth. I work as a vendor for a company in Macys. It means that I work within Macy’s but I do not actually work for the company. I’ve learned through my job that MANY high end dept stores work this way. (Vendors sell our own products to people and the store takes a cut, we get to push our brands in a way a generic employee cannot since we’re more versed. Think how MAC cosmetics has MAC employees in Macys). So when they say “Barneys Employees didn’t call the cops” they’re narrowly towing the line between truth and lies. A vendor might have called over the NYPD to check on someone, and that allows Barneys to avoid negligence and protect themselves in court. It still happened in the store as the young boy said which does hold them somewhat responsible but not in the way that society wants them to be responsible. Once again, this issue… not even close to the top of my list of things going on in the black community that are bad. If anything it is a sign of how ruthless the NYPD is. Even if a Barneys employee said “Oh hey, not sure if that guy used a legit card” the response is to stop confrim his ID with his card and let him go. Not arrest him, detain him and INSIST he’s not who he says he is. The NYPD is at larger fault here but they’re a bigger monster to deal with and we’re not ready as a community to go after the mayors, lawyers, police officers and the very justice system that is incarcerating us at rates higher than any other nation in the world. Once again I ask, why did we rally against Jay-Z here instead of rallying behind and supporting the young man who pointed out the problem?

  26. We are racially profiled in every store in American. The little mom and pop Korean store on the corner in our neighborhoods to all of the big chain stores. Why are we asking Jay Z to be our spokesman. This man did not get in to music to become a leader of black people.

    I have never been in Barneys but I hear it is very expensive. Any person making under 40k a year should not be shopping there anyway. And I bet a big portion of his music followers are in that category.

    In our own words: DON’T HATE THE PLAYA HATE THE GAME.

    • I guarantee you the women & men who shop at Barneys are not Jay-Z’s biggest customer base. Barneys is a luxury niche store that sells exclusive brands that Jay-Z’s fans, who are mostly young and white, have never heard of.

      And I’m allowed to hate anyone playing a game where my people are pawns to be sacrificed for the win.

  27. Say what you like, it was not OK for JZ to call Harry Belafonte “boy” and there was absolutely nothing wrong with Mr. Belafonte criticizing JZ and his ilk. Harry Belafonte’s record as a civil rights activist is beyond reproach. Shawn Carter has zero credentials as a force for good in our society. I do question Barneys’ good intentions and it is impossible to see them in a positive socio-economic light without their contributing in some real way to the betterment of our society and not profiling their customers as they seem to do. JZ supports Barneys’ actions because he stands for exactly the same things they do, i.e.: reaping profits from selling goods to rich (mostly) white folks.

  28. “The African American community has to get beyond this belief that just because someone from our community attains fame or wealth, that they’re somehow intellectually superior, a role model and someone to be admired. ”

    This is as American as apple pie.

  29. Being a responsible citizen goes beyond race. Perhaps if the approach was – look Mr. Jay-Z you achieved a certain level of wealth and recognition in society and it is “expected” of good people with such blessings that they take on an ACTIVE leadership role in addressing social justice issues in our society. This isn’t counter-cultural, this is what responsible wealthy people do across many cultures. Perhaps he would respond to that kind of an approach since he wants to be part of the establishment. Whatever works…might also teach in a round-about way.

  30. Really great post, thanks. For me, it’s this kind greed and materialism that should always preclude the likes of Jay Z, Kanye West etc from ever being considered a role model or leaders in any community. Scavenging from grassroots creativity to sell to the highest bidder is reprehensible – fame seekers without integrity… There are plenty of successful, famous role models with measurable social, political conscious gravitas to look to. What’s more insulting, is any notion that we cannot see whats going on.

  31. Jay Z has been all about the money from the moment he stepped on the music scene. This is nothing new. Whenever he is questions about his motives or his actions. He responds by talking about his money and coming from the bottom, willing to do whatever is necessary even if it means robbing you to get to where he needs to be. Jay Z has made his bed. He knows and understands who his audience is and he can’t turn back now.

  32. Jay-Z’ mentality about A tried and true “Civil-Rights icon” is sad… where he thinks money trumps character – If he lives long enough – he will probably have to learn the hard way.. of how important character is –
    It is really sad that some young African-American or (more conventional/contemporary wording: “people of color”- are so ignorant and are uneducated t, ( simply just stupid).. and have not been taught how and when to respect ones elders…(an old African axiom – “respect the elders of the village”) of the many sacrifices made by those before them did in an effort to make life (the future) better for their prodigy, and those who would follow.

  33. The sad part about this whole conversation is that why do I need a pocketbook that cost more than the money I have to put in it and why do I need a belt that probably was more than the whole outfit cost. I am not mad about Jay Z because I do not buy his clothes or his music and I certainly do not shop at Barney’s because I simply can not afford them. Let’s get real Jay Z’s clothing line was in Macy’s, Dillard’s and etc. and the first thing we did was run and buy them, we as a people buy anything that is designer not because we need it but because we want it. Yes if you can afford the luxuries than by all means buy it, however, if you are receiving public assistance than rethink your decision. Jay Z is who he is and do you think for one minute he cares what any of us think, more or less any of the other icons that have done some of the things you are accusing Jay Z of today but because the others were not put on front street like Jay Z there is not talk about it.
    I commend Mr. Belafonte for his contributions to the Civil Rights movement and I appreciate his words about Jay Z but at the same time lets talk about the millions of people homeless, children being abused and living in poverty, lets take up a fight that can really use our attention. We forget that when we come up lets not forget the people let behind. May God bless all of you and just pray for Jay Z and the many other icons.

  34. Pingback: Harry Belafonte Was Right About Jay-Z | ministerrobinlynne
  35. I wish people stop holding these “celebrities” to a higher standard because of money, hell the real civil right leaders, which he never claimed to be, got out here and did work from the gound. This man wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth, now that he has money, you want him to step up and be a hero for every discrimination case, it’s not fair. He has a charitable organization, in which he gave money, how many charities have you’ve given to, whether it’s 6 or 6,000 you would have something to say. If he was to give out too much your blog would be about him trying to outshine somebody, that’s what’s wrong with us as a people now, we create these blogs and rumors and everything else to bring each other down, it gets on my nerves. Won’t you write a blog about the majority of us in these urban areas about these parents, especially fathers not stepping up and being role models for these kids, because trust me, these kids are looking at JayZ wondering what next lyric he’s going to spit to make them dance, not as a father figure..

    • And another thing, Mr. Belafonte, have you heard JayZ’s music? Why would you call on him of all people to represent social activism, call Tavis Smiley, Steve Harvey, men that are on a level of understanding, you called on JayZ because of money. Stop as a race trying to put people on the spot because they’ve attained fame, it’s not fair, it’s the same thing as a parent chastising a hard working college student with a good paying job for carrying a $5000 bag while her sister that wanted to sleep around and drop out of school has no place to lay her head at night, is it he fault of the hard working student?

  36. Respect to everybody’s point of view… but in a practical objective sense “Do you really think some rich guy is going to listen to what a bunch of poor people are saying he should do with his own money?” Your arguments may be positive and politically correct and (depending on your religion) scriptural, but if you’re a guy who believes in the dollar… and you believe in making a lot more than you already have… Do you really think he cares what other critics have to say? It’s obvious this guy doesn’t and will never care about any of that. Don’t waste your breathe and time. Find a way to make some bread yourself, or pool your money with people who want to make a difference. This guy only gives for “face” or taxes reasons… See him for what he is and stop complaining and start acting in your own lives.

  37. Pingback: The Year’s Fiercest Cultural Figures | Listen Girlfriends!
  38. JayZ’s comments ARE pretty arrogant – but what do we expect from someone who has been calling himself Hova for the last decade or so? I want to know why we are scrutinizing the lack of support we get from our President – yano, an elected official’s who’s actual job IS to lift the standards of the people who almost unanimously (as a collective group) supported him.

    That’s the part of his comments I found worth debating – why are we so content with our President when our unemployment rate is the highest its ever been and absolutely none of the social ills that plague our communities have in anyway been addressed. Isn’t this the man who said ‘God Bless Planned Parenthood” you know, the organization founded by a known racist (the bia who said “black people are like human weeds”? He’s doing more for the Homosexual community and undocumented workers that he’s done for black people…

    So an illegal alien w/out a green card can get a drivers license… let’s see a black man who owes so much as 1 cent of child support pull that off.. jus’ sayin – at the end of the day J.Z is just a rapper, Barack Obama is the Leader of the Free World… I guess that doesn’t included black people, huh?

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