Recently, Jay-Z sat down with New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet for one of his few 4:44-era interviews. Over the course of the wide-ranging discussion, the two spoke about the existence of President Donald Trump and the open racism that’s consistently made headlines throughout his time in office. Jay-Z answered by quoting a line from his estranged friend Kanye West and referring to Donald Sterling, the former Los Angeles Clippers owner who was expelled from the NBA in 2014 after an ex-partner leaked racist comments Sterling had made about her black friend. Interestingly, Jay-Z doesn’t quite agree with the decision to expel Sterling, reasoning that it forced other racist ideas to go back into hiding rather than really confronting them. Here it is excerpted below (emphasis ours):
Baquet: Some people think that the election of Donald Trump has revived the debate about race in America. Some people think that, in fact, there’s always been racism in America; that it hasn’t changed and that the debate isn’t any different. It’s just people are paying attention to it. What do you think?
Jay-Z: Yeah, there was a great Kanye West line in one of [his] songs: “Racism’s still alive, they just be concealin’ it.” [“Never Let Me Down,” from West’s 2004 album, “The College Dropout.”] Take a step back. I think when Donald Sterling got kicked out of the N.B.A., I thought it was a misstep, because when you kick someone out, of course he’s done wrong, right? But you also send everyone else back in hiding. People talk like that. They talk like that. Let’s deal with that.
I wouldn’t just, like, leave him alone. It should have been some sort of penalties. He could have lost some draft picks. But getting rid of him just made everyone else go back into hiding, and now we can’t have the dialogue. The great thing about Donald Trump being president is now we’re forced to have the dialogue. Now we’re having the conversation on the large scale; he’s provided the platform for us to have the conversation.
Sterling’s expulsion burnished the NBA’s reputation as a progressive major sports league and was regarded as a triumph for commissioner Adam Silver, who’d been in the position for a little over two months before the scandal broke. But what Jay-Z is pointing at is what many critics have noted without evoking the disgraced owner: That banishing racists and actually confronting them are two separate things.