“I think we’re past kneeling. I think it’s time we go into actionable items.”
The above is a quote from Jay-Z’s response when a reporter held his feet to the fire last week as he announced the business partnership with between his company Roc Nation and the NFL. The reporter asked if he would be kneeling or standing during the National Anthem.
“Everyone knows what the issue is. We’re done with that,” Jay-Z continues. “I’m not minimizing that part of it. That has to happen. That is a necessary part of the process. But now that we all know what’s going on, what are we going to do?”
Here’s what his response sounded like to me: “I will be standing alongside my business partners – who have made it clear that not only do they know and not care what the issue is, but will go to great lengths to end the careers of the players who attempt to raise the issue – with my hand over my heart. Oh, and by the way, I’m doing my part to tackle racism by way of capitalism.”
In the famous words of his famous spouse, “Boy, bye.”
Although his remarks had me fuming, I was a member of team “let’s wait and see.” I was a cautious and suspicious member with minimal expectations, trying desperately to give him the benefit of the doubt. I had a whole little blurb set to memory about it, in case people asked. Here it is in a nutshell:
“My whole thing is, why did he have to say that about Kaep? I’m gonna see what comes of this whole thing, but I just feel like if he was going to make a deal like that, then he should have kept quiet about Kaepernick. I mean, how do you go from refusing to perform at the Superbowl in solidarity with him to saying that? If you’re willing to pimp the movement, at least be quiet about it. Hopefully, whatever he does with the deal will help him redeem himself and make good with Kaepernick. Because, after all, he has Kaep’s bended knee to thank for his seat at the table in the first place.”
Those were my sincere feelings until a wise man said something that was my “aha” moment.
“If he wasn’t willing to make that statement, there would have been no deal,” this man said. “A quiet Jay-Z is of no use to these awful owners.”
This man wouldn’t dare want to be mentioned. But trust he is a Civil Rights Movement OG – like rolling with Dr. King OG – and has seen folks claiming to make deals in the name of moving the issues facing our community get bought and sold like penny candy. He believes that the whole point of Jay-Z being at the table is to use him as a prop as owners continue to downplay their unwillingness to stand up for the black lives that make them even richer – and endorse the punishment of those players who are.
I am so hoping to be wrong about Jay – and will be the first to admit it if I am – but considering the folks he’s co-signing with by way of the deal that we don’t have many details on, I’m siding with my Civil Rights OG.
“We can’t have the inmates running the prison.” This was Texans owner Bob McNair’s response to the players who protested the death of unarmed black men, women and children at the hands of law enforcement.
McNair’s views are not the exception to the rule among NFL owners. They are the rule. I thought Jay-Z was aware of this. I thought that this is why he said, “no thank you” to performing at the Super Bowl, and then patted himself on the back about it later in one of his rhymes.
Here we are two years later, watching money apparently edge him out of the movement. He was named hip-hop’s first billionaire months before this deal. He didn’t need the money. And even if he secretly uses a portion of it to pour into social justice initiatives, it comes at a heavy price.
I had to ask myself a question as I tried with all of my might to give Jay-Z the benefit of the doubt. How on earth will he get the type of people who refer to millionaire athletes who work for them as inmates and attempt to block them taking a knee for injustice to put resources into an effort to end what compelled their players to kneel in the first place?
His remarks made me think long and hard about his “4:44” track, “The Story of OJ,” which is essentially a cautionary tale for the sellouts of our community.
In the song he proclaims that he rides with the folks in the field and tells the house “negroes” to fall back.
Kaep was on the field – so basically, in the field. Jay-Z’s deal is with the owners of the team. Not the house “negroes,” but the individuals whose names are listed on the deed of the “house.”
Kaepernick had no knowledge of the deal. Jay-Z wasn’t obligated to tell him, but still. So, you tell us Jay, “who you wit?”
That’s not to say he hasn’t given back – a lot – for the culture. He has. A whole lot – both individually and with his wife Beyonce. But this ain’t it.
And whatever this is, I just can’t let that statement slide, mainly because we cannot “get past kneeling” until there is no longer a reason to kneel.