Rapper, philanthropist, and entrepreneur Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter spoke out in support of Obama’s stance on gay marriage in a CNN interview Tuesday, saying that withholding the right is “holding the country back.”
Jay-Z started getting involved in politics in 2008, working to increase voter participation and supporting Obama. When asked recently about his feelings on the president backing gay marriage, Carter firmly voiced his support, saying, "What people do in their own homes is their business and you can choose to love whoever you love. That's their business. [It] is no different than discriminating against blacks. It's discrimination plain and simple."
Jay-Z’s support is a big deal. His prominence puts him in the position to open a dialogue and sway opinion — especially among young people — in a way few others can.
People are moved by authenticity. Obama is running for reelection and his recent support, no matter how real, comes across as calculated. Jay-Z, on the other hand, seemingly had nothing to gain by supporting gay marriage. When the CNN reporter asked whether Obama’s position would cost him votes, Jay-Z responded, "It's really not about votes. It's about people… I think it's the right thing to do." A prominent cultural figure speaking from the heart without ulterior motives -- people respect that and listen.
Americans remain divided on the issue, especially African Americans. The Los Angeles Times reported that “[In] 2008 more than 9 in 10 black voters in California backed Obama, then overwhelmingly voted for Proposition 8, the successful ballot measure to overturn the state Supreme Court's decision allowing same-sex marriage."
Homophobia is still rampant in rap and hip hop. It’s changing — hip hop artists Alicia Keys and Will Smith join Jay-Z in their support of gay marriage — but not fast enough for many. Black Jewish rapper Y-Love came out today, saying his catalyst was “... the negative backlash that’s coming. Because people like Michele Bachmann’s husband are still pedaling ex-gay therapy. Because there are kids that are jumping out of their school windows. I know what it feels like, and so I have to say something.” Having an ally as powerful as Jay-Z is a huge step in the right direction.
Washington Post columnist Clinton Yates writes, “It is still considered the utmost insult to insinuate or accuse someone of being a homosexual on a record, a mindset that’s been so perverted that term ‘no homo’ has become regular parlance for all ages.” When the King of Rap departs from the hypermasculine, gay-bashing precedent of the genre and matter-of-factly expresses his acceptance of gay marriage, it matters. His support can help accelerate change, redefine masculinity and legitimize more inclusive views and lyrics. Let’s hope more of his colleagues join him.