“I’m going to Tweet this and I don’t care if Jay gets mad.”
According to now-deleted Tweets, famous couple Jay-Z and Beyonce have donated tens of thousands of dollars to police brutality protesters in Ferguson and Baltimore. The tweets, captured by Complex, were posted by “dream hampton,” a social activist, writer and filmmaker who knows the famous couple. She prefaced her rant with a nod to the rapper:
The tweets explained that when she requested it, the Carters sent money to Ferguson and Baltimore protesters “in minutes.” At least part of the money was used to bail out protesters who were aggressively arrested by police. The couple also sent funds to help aid the growth of Black Lives Matter chapters around the country:
She hinted that they sent more, but it was “too much to list.” At the end of her rant, which included thoughtful statements on the mechanisms of the police state, she closed by saying:
Jay-Z and Beyonce sending money to aid protesters is a highly admirable action. Still, the fact that the couple insists on keeping their donations private raises concerns about the implications of their generous gifts. One commenter on Twitter reflected that it must be because they wanted to maintain humility out of a desire not to detract from the cause.
This explanation is plausible and likely played some part. It is also naive. There are multiple reasons why the royal couple would refuse to publicly speak out in favor of the mass movements against police abuse currently sweeping the country.
For one, taking a political stance is one that does not factor into their “brand.” Of course, if Jay-Z and Beyonce told their fans to take a stand, attend protests and write to judges and lawmakers, they would do it (this would be great, aside from the fact that it would come from a place of authority worship, which is similarly why police face zero accountability in the first place). Still, if either of them were to speak publicly about the issue, it might actually create more consciousness and concern. But it also might even—gasp— cost them some loyal fans. Their billion dollar brand is not interested in justice.
While still not detracting from their generous and needed donations to protesters, there is another possible reason why the couple wants their gifts kept secret: they have close ties to President Barack Obama. Taking a stance on the issue when they consider Obama a good friend could force the president to seriously confront it.
But hasn’t he already?! If Jay-Z and Beyonce pay a surface level of attention to current events, they know that the president called for body cameras for police and assembled a commission to issue a whole report on “21st Century policing.” This Monday, he announced a scaling back of the police militarization program.
If the couple were to pay serious attention to current events, however, they would know that these efforts are superficial, empty promises and that the president’s tangible policies have helped exacerbate the problem of police brutality. Of course, it is impossible to tell how informed the couple is, but their public friendship with him is a disservice to the cause they are helping to fund.
His administration viciously continued the drug war, which leads to wasteful, violative arrests that often escalate into police violence and mass incarceration. The effectiveness of body cameras is highly questionable while the president’s announcement of cutting military equipment to cops has been exposed as a political distraction. It does not prohibit the distribution of such weapons. It merely adds an extra bureaucratic layer to the process of attaining them.
While Jay-Z and Beyonce clearly have good intentions, their generosity is marred by a severe misunderstanding (or ignorance) of why American police are so out of control. Without questioning the foundations of the system (Jay-Z should know—he used to be a drug dealer that rapped about flexing his rights), sending money to protesters is futile. Without questioning the policies and politicians that have produced the police state and without vocally speaking out against the problem, the Carters are throwing money at a symptom instead of a cause.
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