Jay-Z Breaks Silence Over Barneys Controversy

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Oct. 27 2013 2:34 PM

Jay-Z Breaks Silence Over Barneys Controversy, Says He’s Waiting for Facts

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Jay-Z attends a game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Yankees on July 30, 2013 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Caifornia

Photo by Jon Soohoo/Los Angeles Dodgers via Getty Images

Jay-Z is feeling “demonized.” After mounting criticism about the superstar’s collaboration with upscale retailer Barneys that has been accused of racially profiling black customers, the business mogul and rapper released a statement saying he wants to avoid making “snap judgments.” Many have criticized Jay-Z for staying silent after two young black people claimed they were racially profiled after making expensive purchases at Barneys, speculating the reason was that he doesn’t want to lose the money from the partnership with the luxury store. That is far from true, Jay-Z says, noting that he isn’t “making a dime” off his work with the high-end retailer.

The Shawn Carter Foundation, which provides college scholarships, is the one that benefits from the cooperation with Barneys. “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,” Jay-Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter, writes.

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In the statement, Jay-Z emphasizes that “I move and speak based on facts and not emotion” and he doesn’t express any outright sympathy for the alleged victims beyond saying that he has also experienced profiling. “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,” he writes.

Rev. Al Sharpton defended Jay-Z even as he held a rally and threatened a boycott of Barneys on Saturday. “Some people want to make this about Jay-Z,” Sharpton said, according to the New York Post. “No, this is about Barneys first.” Macy’s also became part of the growing scandal Friday, when actor Rob Brown said he had been held for an hour after purchasing a $1,350 watch, reports Reuters. And some who attended Saturday’s rally said they were no strangers to being profiled in high-end stores, with one man telling the Associated Press that sales staff at Bergdorf Goodman refused to help him when he tried to buy shirts there last year.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.