Jay-Z didn’t sell out, he bought in

Jay-Z

In the wake of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protest against police brutality and extrajudicial murder, Jay-Z’s Roc Nation struck a deal to lead the NFL’s endeavors into music and entertainment.  The issue now being raised centers around Jay-Z being a “sellout.”

Jay-Z is a capitalist. He did what capitalists do: he bought in. 

Before he was Jay-Z, he was Shawn Carter. He grew up in the Marcy Projects in Brooklyn, N.Y., and was a drug dealer in his youth. By his own admission, his drug-dealing days prepared him for his current life as a sports entrepreneur and music mogul. 

Already a sellout 

Shawn Carter sold out his community for his personal gain by selling drugs to his own people. Jay-Z, the capitalist, has once again increased his personal fortune by buying into an institution that has also shown little regard for the fate of Black people. 

When asked where we are in the protest process and the significance of kneeling, Jay-Z gave a very Trumpian response: ‘’I think we’ve moved past kneeling and I think it’s time to go into actionable items… 

“Kneeling – I know we’re stuck on it because it’s a real thing – But now that we all know what’s going on, what are we going to do? How are we going to stop it? Because the kneeling was not about a job, it was about injustice.’’ 

Translation? Jay-Z supported Kaepernick in the moment because it was the thing to do. Now there is an opportunity to get paid and as a capitalist, “I’m about that paper.” 

What about Kaepernick? 

In addition to helping the NFL with entertainment, Jay-Z will also consult with the NFL on matters of social injustice. Speaking of injustice, this opportunity for Jay-Z only became possible after Kaepernick sacrificed his NFL career to protest against the real injustice of state-sanctioned police murders. 

If Jay-Z were really down for the cause, wouldn’t he have stepped to the mic and told NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell that he will work with the NFL on the condition that “Kap” gets a fair shot at making an NFL roster? 

The real danger

But it’s not really about Shawn Carter, aka Jay-Z. He is a metaphor, a distraction from the real issue: the dangers of Black capitalism. 

In Manning Marable’s “How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America,” Marable writes, “A decisive component of this underdevelopment process within the periphery is the non-White elite” who serve  “…as a necessary yet dependent buffer between those who wield power and those who have none. 

“Within popular culture, it is the non-White mouthpiece of the new order, articulating in the media and in the various aesthetic forums the ideals of the masters.” 

When White capitalists team with Black capitalists, the Black community finds itself in a more precarious circumstance. The White capitalists will leverage the indifference and duplicity of the Black capitalists against the very community that the Black capitalist claims to support. 

“We don’t need to kneel anymore. It’s time to get paid.” 

We were told

Frederick Douglass told us very clearly,  “Find out just what any people will quietly submit to (or get paid to do) – and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” 

By focusing on Jay-Z, we are losing site of the fact that Colin Kaepernick used his platform to call attention to historic and systemic problem in America: state-sanctioned brutality and murder by the police. The NFL, the government and the media used their power to corrupt the message and demonize Kaepernick, costing him his livelihood. 

As was the case with Curt Flood, Muhammad Ali, Dr. John Carlos and others before him, Colin Kaepernick will eventually be remembered for taking a stand (in this case a knee) for justice. 

Jay-Z will be remembered for buying in – and selling out.


Dr. Wilmer Leon is producer/ host of the nationally broadcast call-in talk radio program “Inside the Issues with Wilmer Leon,” on SiriusXM Satellite radio channel 126. Contact him via www.wilmerleon.com.

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