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Jay Z Declines to Distance Himself From Barneys Partnership

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(Ben Gabbe/Getty Images)

(Ben Gabbe/Getty Images)

By Courtney E. Smith

As Jay Z faces a public backlash for his ties to Barneys, the upscale department store accused of racial profiling their customers, the man himself felt compelled to post a statement to his Life + Times website — a statement that aims to make it clear he’s still sorting through the facts of the situation.

His first order of business in the statement: clarifying that this partnership isn’t making him money. As originally reported by Radio.com, a percentage of the money earned by his in-house boutique will go to his Shawn Carter Foundation and not into Jay Z’s bank account. He writes that another chunk, as a gift from Barneys, will also go to the foundation, whose mission statement reads: “The mission of the Shawn Carter Foundation is to help individuals facing socio-economic hardships further their education at institutions of higher learning.”

From there, the statement goes on to explain that he is “waiting on facts and the outcome of a meeting between community leaders and Barneys” before making a decision. This has stirred up outrage directed towards the mogul, but it might be a prudent move.

The incident in question, where 19-year-old student Trayon Christian was arrested after making a purchase in the store, only happened on October 23 of this year. The details are murky, but CBS New York reported that a representative from Barneys called the NYPD to report that the Chase debit card Christian used was fraudulent, while the undercover officers who detained and arrested him appear to have been the parties making racially questionable comments and further detained him after proper identification and proof of purchase were offered.

To some, it’s splitting hairs. To others, including Jay Z, a more nuianced review of the situation is called for. In his statement, he writes, “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. I have been working with my team ever since the situation was brought to my attention to get to the bottom of these incidents and at the same time find a solution that doesn’t harm all those that stand to benefit from this collaboration.”

Christian is currently suing both Barneys and the NYPD. Barneys announced the day after the incident that they were retaining a civil rights expert to launch a review of their store policies and procedures, as well as reaching out to community leaders to begin a dialog. This was not the first high profile incident of racial profiling at Barneys: Kayla Phillips came forward after hearing Christian’s story to report a similar incident involving the NYPD, but not Barneys employees, at the store in February of 2013.

Jay Z concludes his statement with this thought: “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.”

While Jay Z studies the fine distinctions in the case, many wonder if and how his continued association with a tainted property might affect his reputation.

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