"This is going to sound arrogant, but my presence is charity. Just who I am. Just like Obama’s is."
Yeah, it does sound pretty arrogant.
Those are the words that have people buzzing after Jay-Z's two-part, hour-long interview with RapRadar's Elliott Wilson. While Jay touched on everything from fatherhood to Magna Carta, it's his comments on charity that stand out as most telling and memorable.
"I connect to the things I think are important, and I help in my way," he said. Hov notes that although he does anonymously contribute to causes he deems important, his presence and success story alone inspire change in low-end communities. The response came after criticisms from Harry Belafonte, who accused Jay, Beyonce, and other minority celebrities of having "turned their back on social responsibility.”
Hov also said that while he and the rest of America should push Obama to accomplish more, his standing as the nation's first black president is good enough.
“Of course we want to challenge him to do better," he said. “[But] just being who he is ... the first black president. If he speaks on any issue or anything he should be left alone.”
Left alone? Yikes. While the comments themselves appear to be fairly innocuous, Jay's insight proves to be dangerous and discouraging. Accepting Obama as a novelty and a precedent without expecting more action in office fosters a political mentality of settling. Not demanding any tangible improvement from Obama and keeping him "left alone" doesn't make him a very good black leader, let alone a good president. Jay's been a vocal proponent of Obama's two-term presidency, but just how much is his support worth if he doesn't challenge Obama or expect him to function the same as prior presidents? Simply taking Obama as a symbol of surface-level change doesn't institute change in places that need it, like Jay's old home in Brooklyn's Marcy Houses.
Those same places that need change apparently need to accept Jay-Z's presence alone as a tool for improvement, rather than, you know, his mammoth bank roll that continues to broach a billion dollars. Should Jay's sale of a million copies of Magna Carta before its physical release inspire disadvantaged youth? Should a broken community take solace in the fact that maybe one day they too can change Billboard's rules for platinum certification?
Jay comes out looking as shallow as his most recent album. We can only hope that these comments spur enough attention and controversy that he ups his charity work or inspire other minority celebrities to compensate for Jay's disappointing view toward social work. After all, Magna Carta is hard to relate to if you don't own a thousand tuxes and have a world-famous wife. Jay's "presence" is perhaps as out of whack as his views on charity are.