Jay Z’s not done addressing Harry Belafonte’s criticism of his lack of social activism. After responding on wax with lyrics some found offensive, the rapper spoke on Belafonte’s famous critique in an interview with Elliott Wilson for “The Truth” on Jay’s site “Life and Times.”
When asked if he was offended by Belafonte’s words, he said:
I’m offended by that because first of all, this is going to sound arrogant, but my presence is charity. Just who I am, [is charity], just like Obama is. Obama provides hope. Whether he does anything, that hope that he provides for a nation and outside of America is enough. Just being who he is. You’re the first black president. If he speaks on any issue or anything, he should be left alone. […] Of course we want to challenge [Obama] to do better, but I felt like Belafonte just went about it wrong. The way he did it, within the media, and then he bigged up Bruce Springsteen. It was like, ‘Whoa, you just sent the wrong message all around. You just bigged up the white guy against me in the white media.’ I’m not saying that in a racial way. I’m saying what it was just the wrong way to go about it. […] My presence is charity! Just this guy who came from Marcy projects apartment 530C, to these places of me playing in Yankee stadium tonight.
Many find it offensive that he would compare himself to President Obama, but I find it more egregious that he believes just his presence alone is charity. It’s true some may find his story inspiring, but social activism is about much more than individual success. It’s about using your platform to fight for the community as a whole.
To be fair, Jay Z did make an appearance at “Justice for Trayvon” Day in New York City, snapping a photo alongside the murdered teenager’s mother and Al Sharpton.
He also spoke on the verdict in his interview with Elliott Wilson, saying:
“I was really angry, I didn’t sleep for two days. I was really angry about it. We all knew there was still a bit of racism in America but for it to be so blatant… Ask yourself the question, ‘Didn’t Travyon have a right to stand his ground?’ He was being chased, he fought back. He may have won. That doesn’t mean he’s a criminal. He won. If you chase me and you try to attack me and I defend myself, how can I be in the wrong? How is that right? This guy went to get some skittles and go back to watch the All-Star game. He had plans. He had no intentions of robbing anyone’s home. […] It’s a thing where it’s like a reminder of, ‘We still got a long way to go.’ It’s beautiful because this generation right now, they don’t see color in that way. […] They’re funding George Zimmerman because they want to hold on to their guns. […] We all know it was wrong.”
It’s great to see Jay speaking out about injustice, but to truly make a difference in the way Harry Belafonte described, he has to do a little more than just bless us with his presence.
Watch Jay Z’s full interview below: