Jay Z vs. Harry Belafonte

Posted: July 30, 2013 in civil rights, men, parenting, rap, respect

It’ been a couple of weeks now, but it appears that I have more to say on this Jay Z / Belafonte argument. We touched on this subject on the radio show, but it’s still getting a lot of press. Here is what happened for those who are unaware: performer and Civil Rights activist, Harry Belafonte, publicly called out Jay Z and Beyonce for not doing their part in regards to Civil and Human Rights. He basically stated that with their presence, they could accomplish a lot.  Jay Z responded by dissing Belafonte in a song from his newest album.

Here’s my take: Belafonte didn’t have to call out Jay publicly, but I don’t have a huge problem with that. This country became as great as it is because people challenged others to do great things.  However, I do have a problem with how Jay Z handled it. Dissing an 86 year old Civil Rights activist in a rap song? What are you, 12? You can’t even address the man like an adult or release a statement?

Some of you are saying, “well, just because he’s 86 doesn’t mean that he can’t get dissed!”  I totally disagree with you and that line of “thinking.”  The fact that he’s 86 is the main reason Jay Z should have handled this differently.  You don’t treat older people like you do younger people.  And if you don’t believe that, then punch an old man in the face and see what happens to you.  The cops will throw you a “blanket party” on the way to the jail house.

Older people are treasured in other countries, but that’s not the case for the United States. Regardless if you sacrificed your life for the freedom of others, fought for equality or the right to vote, there are plenty of young people out there ready to push you out of the way. “You had your time, now it’s my time. Never mind the fact that I can prosper today because of what you did 50 years ago.”

That’s beyond sad and ignorant to me. Harry Belafonte grew up during an era when people tried to leave the world better off than how they found it. Jay Z comes from a generation that tries to leave the world with enough money as humanly possible.  Because of attitudes like that, the world is spiraling out of control.  Companies are steadily sending jobs overseas.  Politicians are more corrupt than ever.  Racism is still rampant around the country.  We still have plenty of problems in this country, but no one with the stature of Jay Z is willing to risk speaking out against it.  After all, why alienate people and ruin the opportunity to turn $600m into $650m?

Belafonte comes from a time where a “village raised a child.” So, being chastised by someone older other than your parents was commonplace. Respect was something you worked for to earn the title of “man” or “woman.”  Jay Z comes from a time where parents instruct their kids not to listen to other adults.  Respect is expected just from existing.  You can even call someone a “hubby” or “wifey” without being married.

So, there’s a huge gap in thinking in just 40 years between Belafonte’s generation and Jay Z’s.  I’m from Jay’s generation, so I’m one to not criticize him for how he lives his life.  He says that he’s a “symbol of hope” to many.  That may be true.  It’s not true in my case, but it could be true to others.  Besides, what he does with his money and his time is his business.  But, I do have a problem with him calling out a real hero.  Jay Z calling Harry Belafonte a “boy” and dissing his contributions to the world is the equivalent of Lebron James calling Muhammad Ali a “has been.”

Jay Z donated to Katrina victims and participated in eradicating water shortages in the world.  He also became a pioneer in how money is made in the music industry.  Harry Belafonte was a successful singer and actor.  He bankrolled Dr. Martin Luther King’s family when he was on the road.  He bailed MLK out of jail.  He helped finance the Freedom Rides and more.  All of this ultimately led to black people receiving their Civil Rights.

Jay Z changed the way rappers do business in the rap game, but Harry Belafonte changed the world.

Who do you think owes the apology in this scenario? 

Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte (1954)

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