First and foremost, I am a Hip Hop/Rap fan--have been since I memorized L.L. Cool J's "I'm Bad" from the "Bigger and Deffer" album. Or maybe even before then when my cousin and I exhausted our Krush Groove VHS tape--literally memorizing every single line from every single character and every single song performed in the movie or used in the movie's soundtrack. So, there is no way, particularly as an English Literature major, writer, and self-proclaimed rhetorician, can I deny the verbal flow and narrative skills of Jay Z/Jay Hova, the God M.C. But, I often wonder why he, like so many other Black American exceptions, steer clear of certain sociopolitical or racial conflict and discourse that often arises in 21st Century popular culture. Case in point--the Barney's of New York racial profiling incident that occurred a little more than a week ago.
Before I delve into why I believe that Shawn Carter, aka Jay Z, should take a stance in this particular incident, I must first disseminate my definition of a "Black American Exception". As far as my thirty-something eyes can see, I believe a “Black” exception to be one who has been granted the privilege, via above-average intellect, talent, and skill, be it through the luck of the draw or particular circumstance, whether it being educated in the right schools, granted a specific scholarship, growing up in a certain neighborhood, or networking with the right Black or white people has achieved above average social, financial, educational, or occupational standing in American society, and therefore, maintains a broader scope of influence than the average ‘Black ‘bear, or Negro.
It has been reported by numerous national media outlets that there have been complaints of racial profiling by Barneys, and Macy’s, in New York City. Now, hip hop lyricist, legend, royalty, and mogul Jay Z apparently has a deal with Barney’s to sell his fashion line in their stores and is even donating 25% of the proceeds to a scholarship fund to help under-privileged youth go to college---you know, have a chance at the ‘American Dream.’ Yet, after the allegations of profiling were revealed to the public, Jay Z was reticent in speaking on the incident and took several days to speak on the matter, and when he did, he only 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 demonised, denounced, and thrown on the cover of a newspaper for not speaking immediately?” Well, sir, because you are in a fiscal partnership with this particular brand and that brand, maybe not directly, but indirectly, maintains employees that seem to deem Black, African-Americans unqualified to purchase items from the store in which they labor. And you, being the mogul and voice of a Hip Hop generation and blackened Horatio Alger figure that you, are have a dog in this fight---and a very big dog at that.
From his rhetorical abilities, lyrical prowess, and extreme proficiency in the construction of narrative tales of the social, economic, racial, and classist ills that have inundated the United States since its inception, and his knowledge of the aforementioned, lead me to believe that he, and other Black exceptions like himself seem to be removed from their civil responsibility to uplift and properly represent the other 90% that DuBois once said the talented tenth were, in essence, responsible for. He and his wife, R&B megastar Beyonce, have a net worth of well over $650 Million and literally have nothing to lose in being an active voice in reconstructing the hierarchical structure of 21st century American racial and socioeconomic politics.