An Open Letter to Jay Z

Jay Z (Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Jay Z (Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Rashad Robinson, executive director of, writes a stern open letter to Jay Z at the Huffington Post, saying it has been several days since news broke about the racial profiling of customers at Barneys New York. Robinson says it's important for Jay Z to speak out about his upcoming collaboration with Barneys. (The rapper has since issued a statement on his website.)

Nobody should blame you for cutting a promotional deal — launching an exclusive holiday collection — with Barneys just before a racial profiling scandal exploded at the luxury Manhattan department store. As one of your most famous songs reminds us, you're not a mind-reader.

But they will blame you. Timing is everything and the seeming hypocrisy of a rapper who's rhymed about racial profiling and police misconduct now promoting a $33,000 watch at the infamous department store is too juicy of a headline to ignore.

And, to be fair, it's been several days now since the news broke that Trayon Christian, a 19-year-old engineering student from Queens, is suing Barneys and the NYPD for racial discrimination after purchasing a $349 Ferragamo belt from the store. He was stopped just after exiting, handcuffed and detained in a jail cell until the police ran out of reasons to keep holding him.

It's been several days, too, since the follow-up story of Kayla Phillips, a 21-year-old nursing student, who was swarmed by undercover cops after buying a designer handbag at the same store back in February. She too is planning to sue Barneys and the police.


Read Rashad Robinson's entire piece at the Huffington Post.

The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff. 


Rashad Robinson is executive director of Color of Change, the nation’s largest online civil rights organization. Follow Color of Change on Twitter.

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