Those are just a few lines from Kanye West’s song “New Slaves” from his most recent LP Yeezus. After listening to this song on repeat and watching him rant on BBC and Jimmy Kimmel Live! about modern day racism/class-ism …I can’t help but feel that he is absolutely right.
A few days ago, the word broke that a young black male by the name of Trayon Christian was arrested after making a legitimate purchase of $350 Ferragamo belt at Barneys New York on Madison Ave. Just yesterday, another person came forward — more specifically a young black woman by the name of Kayla Phillips – who alleged that undercover cops swarmed her after purchasing a $2,500 handbag from the same flagship store.
Now, this behavior is nothing new to black folk who have been under the constant blanket of discrimination and rotating security cameras.
This is nothing out of the ordinary for black men who have to continually over-assimilate and appear less threatening until he hears the words “you’re so well spoken” from his white counterparts. However, what is more distressing than Barneys New York’s racist practices is the hypocrisy of seeking the brand power of a Brooklyn-born crack dealer turned entertainment mogul, Shawn Carter, a.k.a. Jay Z. Jay Z is currently in partnership with Barneys New York for the release of his holiday collection — called “A New York Holiday” (or BNY SCC).
I have been a lifelong fan of Jay Z from the second I heard the intro track on Vol. 1: In My Lifetime. Since 1997 I have purchased every single album and project that he has found himself affiliated with. I am proud to say that I am a son of hip-hop. And at almost 30 years old, I can still say that hip-hop is one of the most important message conduits of our time, even with all of its flaws.
The story of Jay Z’s rise to “black excellence” is as American as it gets. He came from the trenches of Marcy projects, fighting for scraps, and is now gracing the cover of Forbes magazine with billionaires like Warren Buffet. The young black generation regards his story as a myth. To us he has reached heights that most of us feel we will never even smell. But his intuition and success are so relatable that we live that achievement through him. Some are even motivated to use his flight as their own “blueprint.” But if you scroll through any mainstream internet news outlet articles regarding his current movements, you will see many Caucasian people calling him a thug, a coon, a hoodlum — even classless.
Even though he has achieved a success more than the average human on our planet will ever see, many still look at him as a common black criminal. Even with nearly a half billion dollars, he is still not accepted. It kind of reminds me of someone we all know…someone like the current leader of the free world.
Our president has been met with force unlike any other president that I have witnessed in my rather short lifetime. He is picketed with signs caricaturing him as a monkey, and also ignoramuses calling him “The Kenyan.” I cannot help to think that in this country, you can literally be the Pope and you will still be dehumanized by the color of your skin.
Today, President Obama is visiting Brooklyn (the birthplace of Jay Z) and landing his helicopter in Prospect Park. He will be visiting a school, and connecting with children that look like him. That’s a powerful image, an image that I thought was impossible at high school age.
And that image of Jay Z and Barack Obama shaking hands at the inauguration was a temporary high of how far we have come. But in 2013, if you are young and black, you aren’t allowed to shop in such a high-end store such as Barneys New York unless you are a millionaire mogul like Jay Z, and even then you are still being used.
Kanye West, you are absolutely right.
Jay Z, I am calling on you to end this partnership with Barneys New York, not because I want to attack you personally—but because we can’t be blind to what is truly happening here. And if you are too high up to see it, us regular folk down here at the bottom are giving you a very detailed report of this dirt and muck.