Jay-Z Will Stand by Barneys… And You Will Stand By Him

Published On October 25th, 2013

Jay-Z will stand by Barneys.

And you will stand by him.

It’s true.

Well, technically, it’s only an educated guess. But it’s a guess that I wish I did not believe.

After the latest claims by two African-Americans (one, a 19-year-old college student who filed a claim last week, and another, a 21-year-old nurse who filed a claim 2 months ago), Barneys has been under heat and ridicule for suspected discrimination.

For what is set to be the biggest collaboration of Jay-Z’s career, presumably worth millions of dollars, the 43-year-old hip-hop mogul has strategically remained hush-mouth when it comes to his Christmas collection — and with fair reason.

The holiday surprise gained a lot of attention just a month ago, when Barneys released sample information about the collection, including these photos:

(l) Shawn Carter forAlexander Stutterheimraincoat with gold snaps, (b,l)Shawn Carter for Hoorsenbuhs 18-karat-gold double ring, (t,r)Shawn Carter for Balenciaga’s black leather backpack, and (b,r) Shawn Carter for Balmain print scarf [source]

And these interesting tid-bits:

• A men’s raincoat with gold snap buttons by Stockholm-based designer Alexander Stutterheim ($675)
• A Shawn Carter by Hublot watch with black alligator straps ($33,900), also available in polished black ceramic ($17,900) • Or, a Barneys cotton T-shirt ($70)

Notice, while this is just a sample list of the items, the confirmed cheapest article of clothing within the collection is the above-listed cotton T-shirt, worth more than 10x the amount most would actually consider spending for a blank tee. Yet, if we are to speak in as fair of language as we can when it comes to high fashion in America, no one can be seriously surprised.

In fact,the issue for me is not the price of these pieces— it’s pretty evident that I’m not of Barney’s targeted demographic. What is troubling, however, is the demographic expected to come out in support of Jay-Z.

Those customers,(who like many others) would have to save up money to afford any of the items, and primarily will look like Trayon Christian and Kayla Phillips.

Now, I am not saying that there is anything wrong with targeting this demographic, besides the obviously problematic state of our economy. But as our culture goes, materialism is something that has yet to be overcome by our country as a whole. My remaining aggravation is not reserved for the tug-and-pull for financial gain, but the fact that the very people Barneys is attempting to appeal to with this Jay-Z collaboration, has most recently been suspected of fraudulent behavior for simply purchasing from the establishment.

Trust me, I get it: “You can’t blame an entire company for someone’s mistake,” “Jay-Z shouldn’t be held accountable for others’ actions,” “How do we know there isn’t more to this story?”

Yeah, yeah, yeah… I’ve heard it all before. And it’s all true, to an extent. You cannot blame an entire company for one person’s mistake, but you must investigate the company’s policies and procedures, including their history with customers and suspected fraudulence. In this case, I’d say it’s no coincidence that two people within two months of each other decided to sue the brand on terms of discrimination.

While I wouldn’t hold Jay-Z accountable for the actions having taken place with the victims, he should be held accountable for how he chooses to address this issue. It is imperative that he does say something, provided that he is asking this same demographic to come out in support of him. But here are the hard facts:

  1. In such a high stakes deal such as this, it’s more than common sense to assume that all parties have already signed on the dotted line: this includes Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter along with Lanvin, Balenciaga, Balmain, Proenza Schouler,Rick Owens and Moncler. Pulling out would most likely cause a breach of contract that no one would want to have to afford to pay off in a suit and settlement sure to follow.
  2. Jay-Z has proven on several accounts that he’s not necessarily the voice of the oppressed. Yes, he is from the oppressed, and allows others to glamour his biography as example of ‘The American Dream’. Still, it’d be more than a Russell Brand revolutionary revelation if he actually championed his politics over his money for once.

Given number one, some may ask: ‘how would you suggest he moves forward with his contract?’ Besides my over-confident reiteration of his give-no-fucks, there’s this: he could make a statement and briefly suspend his contract until further investigation has been carried out in regards to the allegations.

Let’s flip the script for a quick second of ‘what ifs’:

Let’s say Jay-Z puts on a special, private show for select few fans. The only way to obtain this ticket is to go to a special vendor Jay-Z selected, whose truck is sitting directly in front of Marcy Projects. The next day, a White fan shows up to Jay-Z’s show, and his security kicks him out, accusing him of fraudulent tickets— with absolutely no grounds of suspicion or evidence to back their claim. If this fan then took grounds to sue and to speak to news and media, what do you honestly believe would happen on a national scale with all of the participating White/European designers? And should this not be treated with the same precaution?

At the very least, this is what I would like to see happen: a sincere show of concern and an inch of dignity for something other than capitalism. Should Jay-Z decide to not comment on the issue at all, or if he simply makes the decision to move forward with his collaboration without any explanation or inquisitive sentiment, I’m certain it will change a tide in the industry in regards to his character and integrity. But not for long.

The saddest part of all, perhaps, is that we have so very few representations of ourselves in the elite, that if Jay-Z ignores these claims, most who will become enraged will continue to support him because there’s so little examples of who is worthy of our support these days in the first place. That’s for any and all people.

Who (aligned within elitism today) will make a stand against racism and classism in our country? Unfortunately, I doubt it will be Jay-Z.

But I’m open to being pleasantly surprised…

—Jasmine “Jazzi” Johnson

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