NYT writer Aisha Harris spoke to Jay about Rest In Power: The Trayvon Martin Story and his other work in documentaries and activism.
AH: The documentary makes a case for viewing Trayvon Martin’s death and the Zimmerman verdict as a turning point that galvanized progressive political activists and white supremacists alike. Did it help spark your own desire to be more publicly outspoken about politics?
JAY-Z: I wouldn’t use that as the catalyst. So many things have been going on and the whole climate in America has changed again. I mean, obviously, I think it was the pendulum swinging back from Obama being president. I feel like it was festering and I think the Obama administration just brought those frustrations to another place where people can spread the propaganda of hate.
Also, on the flip side, we’re looking at people who, in areas like Middle America, were not really taken care of. You know? They vote for Democrats because their parents voted Democrat and America was a different place at that time. The middle class was allowed to thrive and there was steel in Indiana and the car jobs in Detroit and all these places where these factories were to provide a way for you to start somewhere in low income, get middle class and then maybe end up with the house of your dreams. This was the American dream and it was real. Then that America changed and no one addressed that.
There are a lot of things going on that lead to these sorts of films, these docs that I’m creating now. It’s more of an education, because it’s so egregious that people don’t believe it.
People have to really see this. They have to see it again and they have to see it with facts and details, because people don’t really believe it. Until the world believes it and everyone gets involved, it’s going to be a black problem.
I think people have been able to hide behind, “He must’ve been out there doing something.” “He had a hoodie on.” I’m not talking about people who have this preconceived notion of black people as robbers bad. I’m talking about good people who’ve been able to hide behind the idea of, “No way that happened. Something had to be going on.”
AH: With the Kalief Browder documentary, about a teenager held at Rikers Island for three years without trial, you were hoping that it would change certain laws around solitary confinement for juveniles. Is the hope that something similar can happen with regard to the Stand Your Ground laws?
JAY-Z: Yes, absolutely. Again, it’s an educational process. This law, we have to get people to understand what it says. Of course, he will not be found guilty. It’s very difficult to be found guilty with this law as it stands today.
The system doesn’t work as it exists today. No one wants to talk about that because it’s as if you are bashing police officers. I’m not bashing police officers. I’m just saying the facts do not support this being the answer, the system as it stands today.
Read the full interview via The New York Times.