The high-end department store Barneys New York has recently come under fire amidst separate accusations of racial profiling and discrimination at its Madison Avenue location. The news brought with it criticisms of and protests against Jay Z’s planned holiday collection collaboration with the store. The collection, called “A New York Holiday,” was announced in September and is scheduled to include limited edition clothing and accessories.
Famed Civil Rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton recently commented on the requests for protesting Jay Z’s collection with a call to redirect attention on the department store itself. “Some people want to make this about Jay-Z,” he said as reported in an article by The New York Post. “No, this is about Barneys first.” Sharpton made his statements at the non-profit civil rights organization he founded in the early 1990s called the National Action Network.
Sharpton and other critics have called for the department store’s cooperation in providing information on past instances of reporting shoppers to the NYPD as they did in both of the recent incidents. “What is the collusion between the NYPD and your security that four blocks away from the store, the NYPD stops somebody that bought something in your store?” he said. “We call 911 and can’t get no response. Somebody spent over two grand, and you pick them up four blocks later.” He continued with a public announcement of a planned protest of the store itself. “We’ll march all the way down to your store,” he said, and given the proximity to the upcoming holiday, added, “I’ll serve turkey right on the corner.”
The President of Sharpton’s NAN Brooklyn chapter, Kirsten John Foy, added onto Sharpton’s comments with a more specific mention of the rapper per the Post’s article.“There’s a lot of talk about whether or not Barneys should be doing business with certain black people,” he said. “I think it’s a racist notion to assume that the only black person Barneys does business with is Jay Z. We’re not there to focus on Jay Z. [He] did not write the corporate policy at Barneys. Jay Z is just like every other business man, he is there to make money and if he is the only black business man that does business with Barneys—that is the problem. Barneys is what’s on the table right now.”
Jay Z himself made his first public statement regarding the controversy via his own lifeandtimes.com website yesterday (October 26). While not in response to Foy's comments, the Magna Carta Holy Grail rapper rejected the idea that he was making money from the detail, writing that he's "not making a dime from this collection." His statement also addressed the discrimination and his recent critics.“I move and speak based on facts and not emotion," he writes. "I haven’t made any comments because I am waiting on facts and the outcome of a meeting between community leaders and Barneys. Why am I being demonized, denounced and thrown on the cover of a newspaper for not speaking immediately? The negligent, erroneous reports and attacks on my character, intentions, and the spirit of this collaboration have forced me into a statement I didn’t want to make without the full facts.
“I am against discrimination of any kind, but if I make snap judgements, no matter who it’s towards, aren’t I committing the same sin as someone who profiles? 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.”