Thursday, May 9, 2013

Jay-Z, Cuba and Race in the Media

I know I said I wanted to keep this site just about the music, but this Jay Z thing was really getting to me. It was such an overt form of racism I had to write something about it. And he did drop a dope track following the scrutiny. If you're unfamiliar with what's been going or haven't heard the new track, read below.

Black men are disproportionately targeted negatively by the media and disrespected socially, economically and politically. An example of media and social biases toward successful black men is the public life of Jay Z or Shawn Carter. Despite being a successful businessman and hip hop pioneer, he is not taken seriously. Most recently his trip to Cuba, and his relationship with President Obama, made him the target of negative attention by the news media. His trip with his wife, BeyoncĂ© Knowles Carter, was authorized by the Department of Treasury for educational purposes. Nevertheless, Florida Congress members Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart sent a joint letter to the Treasury Department that demanded to know who authorized the Carters’ trip to Cuba. The politicians wrote, "The restrictions on tourism travel are common-sense measures meant to prevent US dollars from supporting a murderous regime that opposes US security interests at every turn and which ruthlessly suppresses the most basic liberties of speech, assembly and belief”. The Politicians also stated that Jay-Z needed “to get educated.” News articles reporting on the trip and its backlash went as far as stating that the Carter’s were “ignorant” for their decision to travel to Cuba. Robert Redford, Leonardo DiCaprio and Sean Penn are just a few of the white celebrities who have visited Cuba in recent years. “Yet none of Jay Z and BeyoncĂ©’s anti-Castro detractors implied that these white celebrities lacked common sense, or needed to be educated, or were ignorant”.

In addition to questioning the totally justified and legally authorized trip, the congress members expressed allegations about the friendship between President Obama and the Carters. "The congress members' letter doesn't say it overtly, but there is an implicit accusatory tone to their complaint that suggests complicity between the Carters and the Obama administration." Jay Z responded to the media scrutiny in a new song, “Open Letter.” In the track he raps, “You gettin’ too much bread, then they trying to jam you.” This powerful line outlines how minorities, especially those who are successful, are targeted as soon as they achieve some monetary stability.

The song also included some lyrics that contributed to the general media controversy about the alleged Obama-Carter connection. In one line, Jay Z states: “Boy from the hood but got white house clearance” and then further down: “Obama said ‘chill you gonna get me impeached,’ but you don’t need this shit anyway, chill with me on the beach.” These lines from the song comprised the evidence the press used in its insinuations that President Obama authorized this trip to Cuba. Absurdly, the white house was forced to have a press conference to discuss the lines of Jay Z’s song.   

Regarding the trip, President Obama asserted, “I wasn’t familiar that they were taking the trip…You know, this is not something the White House was involved with. We’ve got better things to do”. Both the language, suggesting Jay Z is lacking common sense and uneducated as well as the unproven accusation that President Obama in someway authorized this trip because of their friendship had racial undertones. This would not have escalated to the point where the President of the US would need to have a press conference defending himself for something so inane and trivial if the people involved were white. Jay Z is successful, but he is not respected.

"Open Letter"- Listen to the track here

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