Jay-Z vs. Killer Mike: What They Both Get Wrong About Black Capitalism

Still nigga. Black people and capitalism has always and will probably forever have a tainted relationship. Our existence in America is the foundation for what makes capitalism great and what makes it a sin. Our ancestors were brought to this land because of free labor and production. It was the same motivation for why Africans sold us. As humans became barter for trade, this was the beginning of capitalism. (A painful history many of us want to ignore.) However, the color of our skin wasn’t the motivation for why our African owners chose to sale us as human capital. Race became an issue to justify and separate people of European descent from Black people and to further dehumanize us. Capitalism didn’t start racism. It fueled racism. But can capitalism end racism?

Black Capitalism vs. Racism

In “The Story of OJ,” Jay-Z acknowledges that no matter how much you try to disaffiliate yourself from all things Black, Black people can still be viewed through a racist lens. He raps, “You wanna know what’s more important than throwin’ away money at a strip club? Credit.” Yes Jay-Z. It’s much better. But can it supersede racism? Or am I “still nigga?” To some…yes. You can’t escape racism, no matter how much money you make. Capital can even exacerbate racism.

Now, this isn’t a pretentious breakdown or think piece of Jay-Z’s lyrical intentions. He doesn’t even explicitly express that capitalism is the end all be all for Black progress. However, many in “think piece city” will argue that Jay-Z’s brand of capitalism won’t heal hearts. It won’t heal or make up for the pain we’ve experienced. But who said it would or that it should? Black capitalism isn’t about ending racism or healing our hearts. It’s about healing our pockets.

Self-Sufficiency vs. Socialism

Killer Mike on the other hand view Black capitalism as much more. He views it as a way to build self-sufficiency and a tool to counteract racism (ironic considering he supported a Democratic Socialist). Insert the whole Bill Maher fiasco. Killer Mike addressed (or defended) his friend by asking, “But do you bank Black though?” His thought process seems to think that Black capitalism is the only solution. Yet, banking black is just a drop in the bucket as his views are driven by the myth of Black buying power.

There’s been a long history of times where Black buying power matched Black wealth but were squandered by racism. Two examples are Tulsa’s Black Wall Street and Atlanta’s Auburn Avenue. Both stories of self-made Black millionaire communities that are now gone due to vicious riots and systemic racism. These communities existed because of capitalism. Yet, they still diminished. Even now, there are examples of self-sufficient Black capitalistic successes in deep red states and in the top 1%. But questions still arise on how to protect and expand such successes? Many may argue that the solution to Black economic growth is simply socialism. However, socialism hasn’t been effective at addressing Black economic issues either.

Winner.

So, what’s the solution? I don’t completely know. We can debate about that. (Me personally, I think incentivizing home ownership and life insurance investment while enforcing legislation like the Fair House Act are the first steps.) But to relay the message that either are the absolute solution to Black people achieving economic equity and racial equality is dumb, cause to many, you’re “still nigga.”