NEW YORK (AP) — Jay-Z — under increasing pressure to back out of a collaboration with the luxury store Barneys New York after it was accused of racially profiling two black customers — said Saturday he's being unfairly "demonized" for just waiting to hear all of the facts.
The rap mogul made his first statement about the controversy in a posting on his website. He has come under fire for remaining silent as news surfaced this week that two young black people said they were profiled by Barneys after they purchased expensive items from their Manhattan store.
An online petition and Twitter messages from fans have been circulating this week, calling on the star to bow out of his upcoming partnership with Barneys for the holiday season, which will have the store selling items by top designers, inspired by Jay-Z, with some of the proceeds going to his charity. He is also working with the store to create its artistic holiday window display.
But Jay-Z — whose real name is Shawn Carter — defended himself, saying that he hasn't spoken about it because he's still trying to figure out exactly what happened.
"I move and speak based on facts and not emotion," the statement said. "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?" he said, referring to local newspaper headlines.
The two Barneys customers, Trayon Christian and Kayla Phillips, said this week they were detained by police after making expensive purchases.
Christian sued Barneys, saying he was accused of fraud after using his debit card to buy a $349 Ferragamo belt in April. Philips filed a notice of claim saying she would sue after she was stopped by detectives outside the store when she bought a $2,500 Celine handbag in February.
As the criticism grew, Barneys said Thursday it had retained a civil rights expert to help review its procedures. The CEO of Barneys, Mark Lee, offered his "sincere regret and deepest apologies."
Kirsten John Foy, an official with the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network, said he would meet with Barneys officials on Tuesday to discuss the racial profiling allegations.
Jay-Z — who rose from a life of crime in Brooklyn to become one of the most heralded rappers and one of entertainment's biggest superstars — has in the past called for a boycott of labels perceived to be racist, and has become more political in recent years, from speaking out about the killing of black teenager Trayvon Martin to campaigning for President Barack Obama.
Jay-Z said in this case, he's still trying to find out what happened —which is why he was silent.
"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," he added.
He also dismissed reports that he would profit from the collaboration. He said he's "not making a dime" from working with Barneys. Instead, his Shawn Carter Foundation, which provides college scholarships to economically challenged students, will get 25 percent of all sales from the collaboration.
"This money is going to help individuals facing socio-economic hardships to help further their education at institutions of higher learning," he said. "My idea was born out of creativity and charity... not profit."
He also said that "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," he said. "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."
Jay-Z said he understood what it felt like to be racially profiled — but also didn't want to jump to unfair conclusions.
"I am against discrimination of any kind but if I make snap judgments, no matter who it's towards, aren't I committing the same sin as someone who profiles?" he asked. "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."
Earlier Saturday, Sharpton held a rally at his National Action Network headquarters in Harlem, saying black New Yorkers should put shopping at Barneys "on hold" if the retailer's response is inadequate.
But it is not the only retailer accused of racially profiling its customers.
Some Sharpton supporters who attended Saturday's rally said they had been profiled in other stores, too. Shane Lee, 51, said he went to the high-end store Bergdorf Goodman to buy shirts last year and the sales staff would not assist him.
"Instead of helping me, they were staring at me," said Lee, who is black. "I felt so uncomfortable that I just left."
A Bergdorf Goodman official did not return a call seeking comment Saturday.
On Friday, Rob Brown, a black actor on the HBO series "Treme" said he was stop because of his race while shopping at Macy's flagship Manhattan store. Brown said in his lawsuit that he was detained nearly an hour by police June 8 after employees contacted authorities about possible credit card fraud.
Macy's didn't comment on the litigation but said in a statement it was investigating.
Jay-Z's website: http://lifeandtimes.com/
Oprah is racially profiled in a Swiss store
During an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Winfrey was asked if she had personally experienced racism. She responded with an anecdote about a clerk at a shop in Switzerland who had recently refused to show her an expensive bag, even though she repeated her request multiple times. "That one will cost too much, you won't be able to afford that," Winfrey claimed the clerk told her. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/14/oprah-swiss-racist-interview_n_3759144.html?utm_hp_ref=oprah" target="_blank">Read the full story, here.</a>
Paula Deen and the N-word
The 66-year-old chef a<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/25/paula-deen-smithfield-endorsement-over-company-drops-deen-in-wake-of-racist-remarks_n_3495314.html" target="_blank">nd Food Network star admitted in a </a>deposition in a discrimination lawsuit that she used racial slurs in the past. Deen was asked under oath if she had ever used the N-word. "Yes, of course," Deen said, though she added, "It's been a very long time."
Racist tweet from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Yes, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/23/atlanta-journal-constitution-racist-tweet_n_4150222.html?utm_hp_ref=black-voices&ir=Black%20Voices" target="_blank">racist tweets will get you in trouble.</a> AJC posted this, deleted it, and had to apologize.
Jordan Davis shooter rants about killing 'thugs'
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/18/jordan-davis-shooter-michael-dunn_n_4123805.html" target="_blank">Michael Dunn, the Florida man charged with shooting 17-year-old Jordan Davis after an argument over loud music, </a>is currently awaiting trial and maintaining that he acted in self-defense the night of the fatal confrontation. In several letters reportedly written from jail, and obtained by News4Jax, Dunn rants about killing "thugs" so "they take the hint and change their behavior," black-on-white crime and the liberal media.
Black college student claims he was arrested for buying designer belt
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/23/trayon-christian-lawsuit-barneys-new-york-nypd_n_4148490.html?utm_hp_ref=black-voices" target="_blank">Barneys New York and the New York Police Department have been slapped with a lawsuit by Trayon Christian</a>, a college student from Queens, who was arrested at the luxury department store in April. "His only crime was being a young black man,” Michael Palillo, Christian's attorney, told The New York Post. The Post reports that the 19-year-old was at the store buying a $350 Salvatore Ferragamo belt, but following the purchase, he was stopped by undercover officers that were allegedly called on by a Barneys sales clerk who believed the transaction was fraudulent.
Young woman hosts "African" themed 21st birthday, posts racist photos
A young Australian woman<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/21/african-themed-21st-birthday_n_4138573.html?utm_hp_ref=tw" target="_blank"> hosted an "African" themed 21st birthday party</a>. Afterwards, she shared photos that show attendees In blackface and KKK costumes.
Black woman allegedly fired from "Hooters" due to her blonde highlights
A <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/22/farryn-johnson-fired-hooters-blond-highlights-_n_4142108.html?utm_hp_ref=black-voices" target="_blank">black woman was allegedly fired from her job because of her blonde highlights.</a> Farryn Johnson told Maryland's CBS News affiliate that she was let go from her job as a waitress at Hooters due to '"improper image" after the 25-year-old refused to remove blonde highlights from her dark brown hair. "They specifically said, 'Black women don't have blonde in their hair, so you need to take it out,'" Johnson told CBS.
Ohio School Apologizes After Attempting To Ban 'Afro-Puffs' And 'Twisted Braids'
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/25/ohio-school-afro-puff-horizon-science-academy_n_3498954.html" target="_blank">An Ohio charter school attempted to ban </a>"afro-puffs and small twisted braids."
Obama as Hitler Billboard
WANE-TV<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/15/obama-hitler-billboard-indiana_n_4101322.html" target="_blank"> shared an image of the billboard, which is said to flash with the words "Impeach Obama."</a>
Another Black Shopper Accuses Barneys And NYPD Of Racism
Kayla Phillips, a 21-year-old nursing student from Brooklyn, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/24/barneys-racism-kayla-phillips_n_4155176.html" target="_blank">told the Daily News</a> that she was stopped by police after purchasing a $2,500 Céline bag at the store on February 28. After buying the luxury item with the money from a tax return, the woman left the Madison Avenue store. Three blocks away, she says she was surrounded by four undercover police officers -- two white, one African American and one Asian -- at a nearby subway station.
Company Policy Requires Missouri Woman To Cut Her Dreadlocks To Keep Her Job
Ashley Davis, a 24-year-old from St. Peters, Mo.,<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/24/new-company-policy-forces-woman-to-cut-dreadlocks_n_4159369.html?utm_hp_ref=black-voices" target="_blank"> said a change in her company's policy now requires her to cut off her dreadlocks. </a> “I've only been there for two months, and they came up with a policy. I feel like it's degrading,” she said.
Macy's Gets Slapped With Racial Discrimination Lawsuit By Black Shopper
The New York Post reports that actor Robert Brown, who's most known for his starring role opposite Sean Connery in the film “Finding Forrester," <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/25/macys-racial-discrimination-lawsuit-black-shopper_n_4164823.html?utm_hp_ref=black-voices" target="_blank">has filled a civil suit for an unspecified sum against the luxury retail store and the New York Police Department</a>, citing that he was unlawfully searched by undercover police officers on June 8, 2013. The 29 year old, who is black, was stopped after making a purchase at the Sunglass Hut store located inside Macy's flagship location in New York's Herald Square
Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman Halloween Costumes
A group costume<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/28/trayvon-zimmerman-halloween-costume_n_4170528.html" target="_blank"> features a man dressed as Martin</a>, wearing blackface and a blood-stained hoodie, and a man portraying Zimmerman, wearing a shirt that reads "Neighborhood Watch." In a photo uploaded to the Facebook account of Caitlin Cimeno, the woman in the picture, the man portraying Zimmerman has fashioned a gun out of his right hand and has pointed it at the man dressed as Martin.
Is this sign racist?
An Arkansas town with a reportedly dark past rooted in racial discrimination is pushing back after an "anti-racist" billboard<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/07/harrison-arkansas-antiracist-code-word-antiwhite_n_4227769.html" target="_blank"> went up on a major roadway there last month.</a> Someone in Harrison, Ark., is paying $200 a month for an entire year to display this 12-by-24–foot sign with the message "Anti-Racist is a Code Word for Anti-White."