“You see it’s broke nigga racism, that’s that ‘Don’t touch anything in the store’ and it’s rich nigga racism that’s that ‘Come in, please buy more’ ‘What you want, a Bentley? Fur coat? A diamond chain? All you blacks want all the same things’ Used to only be niggas, now everybody playing. Spending everything on Alexander Wang. New Slaves”
Being black in America is no easy feat, and being black while trying to purchase expensive goods in America is even harder territory to charter. Want to feel insecure about your standing as a black person? Take a walk into any luxury retail store and walk around slowly to check out the merchandise, in other words, just try to shop.
No sudden movements. Don’t put your cell phone in your purse. Don’t take too many things in the fitting room, and God forbid the sales associate greets you on the way in; it’s a true rarity.
“Ma’am would you like any help looking for something specific?”
“Sir, I will just hold that at the register while you shop around.”
“Hi, security, we are just going to need a walk through in the men’s section.”
You’re black, you’re young, how could you possibly have any money to spend on anything? Even if it is the Ferragamo belt or Celine purse you’ve been tactfully saving up to buy.
Those exact allegations were made non-verbally in two separate incidents this year, as both 19-year-old Trayon Christian and 21-year-old Kayla Phillips revealed they were wrongly accosted by the NYPD after buying high-end items at Barneys. Christian says he was handcuffed and thrown in a jail cell, while officers asked how he could afford the expensive accessory he purchased. The common denominator in both cases? Barneys New York was the culprit.
“You see it’s broke nigga racism. That’s that ‘Don’t touch anything in the store’”
The backlash since then has called for a boycott of Barneys and aided in the development of a Change.org petition urging Jay Z to drop his Holiday collection with Barneys, slated for a mega installment and presentation at the New York City store for the Holiday season. The black community is rallying for Jay to join them in solidarity and pull out on the already produced collection that features collaborative items ranging in price from a $70 cotton T-shirt, to a Shawn Carter by Hublot watch with alligator straps for $33,900.
“And it’s rich nigga racism. That’s that ‘Come in, please buy more’”
Dubbed “A New York Holiday,” Jay Z’s “exclusive” Barneys collection was inspired by the city’s black, gold, white and silver color palette and according to Jay Z, he will be donating 25 percent of his earnings from the line’s sales to help students pay for college.
The cards are in place, the products are already produced and in the words of Jigga man himself, he is a business, man. He is a business, and pulling out of a business move as large as this one wouldn’t be a tactical jump on the chessboard.
While we all know the pain of being wrongfully accosted in retail situations, the fact here is that an entire company is being blamed for the fault of society’s mindset, and the alleged prejudice of one sole employee.
Was what happened to 19-year-old Trayon Christian and 21-year-old Kayla Phillips despicable? Absolutely. But the blame game has us blaming our very own and placing the responsibility on the wrong player. Jay Z is not the root of race relations in America. Jay Z has triumphed, but that does not make him the messiah of black folk employed to carry messages of injustice to the top. This is simply not Jigga’s battle to suit up for.
Rather than condemn Jay Z for his ability to rise to the creme de la creme, we have skimped on the celebratory triumph of Barneys even considering Jay to be the face of their most important collection of the year. We have failed to pay attention to the larger scale of growth: how can they keep us out when the collection is made by a man that looks like us? A man who came from similar situations as us? That has to say something about the progression of race relations.
The African American consumer is currently the most important market, with more buying power than any other racial group. According to study released by Nielsen.com, the African American consumer is both resilient, receptive and very freaking relevant, as they currently have a buying power of $1 trillion that is forecasted to reach $1.3 trillion dollars by the year 2017:
Currently 43 million strong, African-American consumers have unique behaviors from the total market. For example, they’re more aggressive consumers of media and they shop more frequently. Blacks watch more television (37%), make more shopping trips (eight), purchase more ethnic beauty and grooming products (nine times more), read more financial magazines (28%) and spend more than twice the time at personal hosted websites than any other group.
But I cannot help but think about what we are learning to covet. Are we taking lessons in carrying expensive purses rather than seeking out endless wells of financial stability? Are we looking to rappers for nothing more than their monetary success and attempting to mimic these winnings, rather than focusing on the opportunity in the shards from the shattered glass ceiling? The focus is off.
Jay Z is not our spokesperson. He is not offering the wine of answers from his Holy Grail. Is a personal boycott of Barneys on the horizon? For myself, absolutely. For Jigga? Not likely. Rally up. Organize your friends. Refuse to shop there for yourself and others and gather accordingly, we have the buying power to provoke change. Be heard, but don’t count on anyone else to be your voice.
Rachel is the Style Editor for GlobalGrind.com, proud graduate of a SUNY school, and as sarcastic as they come. Follow her on Twitter for random daily ramblings @MiissHislop and on Instagram at @AmazingRach