In a rare public statement on a political issue, Jay Z came out in support of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to improve relations between police and civilians in the Big Apple. Cuomo made his comments on Wednesday, and in support of them, Jay Z said:
“The criminal justice reform package proposed by Governor Cuomo today is a huge step forward in restoring fairness, protection, sensitivity and accountability for all under our justice system,” Jay Z said in a statement, via Capitol Confidential.
“I commend Governor Cuomo for his bold leadership in taking this issue head on at this critical time. This package presents comprehensive steps to protect and improve relations amongst all citizens. We cannot be divided, as every single human being matters. Together, we can move forward as a community, with mutual respect for each other and continue to make this great state stronger than ever before.”
Interestingly, the rapper’s statement played off of the “black lives matter” refrain that’s become a ralling cry for protestors in the wake of the police killings of Eric Garner on Staten Island and Mike Brown in Ferguson. The fact that Jay Z – one of the most recognizable black cultural figures in the world whose discography is filled with tales of beating the law – stopped short of centering black poeple in a conversation on policing is important, given the history of the phrase. Here’s Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, on why it’s important to put black folks at the forefront:
When we say Black Lives Matter, we are talking about the ways in which Black people are deprived of our basic human rights and dignity. It is an acknowledgement Black poverty and genocide is state violence. It is an acknowledgment that 1 million Black people are locked in cages in this country-one half of all people in prisons or jails-is an act of state violence. It is an acknowledgment that Black women continue to bear the burden of a relentless assault on our children and our families and that assault is an act of state violence… And the fact is that the lives of Black people–not ALL people–exist within these conditions is consequence of state violence.
As Rolling Stone points out, Jay Z, Russell Simmons and Common all met with Cuomo recently to ask him to reform the state’s criminal justice system. Jay Z also distributed “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts in support of Garner’s case to NBA players late last year.