Jay-Z & Jemele


Every now and then when Richard Deitsch does his “spend $100 million on a fancy new studio while laying 100 people off” thing I shake my fist at the clouds.

I find the critique unfair because I don’t believe those things are linked. But I also understand both things happened and the appearances aren’t pretty.

Sometimes I wonder how I might have been publicly critiqued for my handling of corporate responsibility the last time I had any (2002). I’m fictionalizing to protect the innocent and to simplify, but the Deitsch-esque take might’ve gone something like:

You laid off one of the world’s foremost industrial engineers while blowing millions of dollars building a content management system that was ultimately replaced with free WordPress software!

After the stock market crash of 2000 and then 9/11 we were regularly doing rounds of layoffs. The severances packages were generous and the layoffs gave convenient cover to solve a problem.

I loved that industrial engineer who had a great message about customer interfaces and how they should work. But the industrial engineer was a problem child.

We spent months trying to convert someone who had a great message into someone who was also a great messenger.

We failed.

I don’t regret trying, but at some point, in the name of getting things accomplished, I prioritized the message over the messenger.

The optics are awful when it comes to Colin Kaepernick. For many of us, Jemele Hill and myself included, it seems extremely unfair.

For some of us, our desire to correct this wrong, to make it right, to make the world just and fair is so strong that we can’t move past it.

But there’s huge risk that with so much focus on the messenger that the message itself gets compromised.

Maybe that’s all that’s going on here. For now, I’m willing to give Jay-Z the benefit of the doubt that in service to the message, he was ready to move beyond the unfairness of it all. As far as Kaepernick goes I understand this too, for some of us, feels like another kick in the shins.

But I think Jay-Z’s way is the right way to go. We’ll see how it plays out.


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