The Christianity of Jay-Z’s Typological Anti-Blackness

Preface: This is NOT A THINK PIECE, this is NOT AN ADJUDICATION, this is a move to feel the possibilities that are made available in entanglement.
-Jared

My skin is black
My arms are long
My hair is woolly
My back is strong
Strong enough to take the pain
inflicted again and again
What do they call me
My name is AUNT SARAH
My name is Aunt Sarah
My skin is yellow
My hair is long
Between two worlds
I do belong
My father was rich and white
He forced my mother late one night
What do they call me
My name is SAFFRONIA
My name is Saffronia
My skin is tan
My hair is fine
My hips invite you
my mouth like wine
Whose little girl am I?
Anyone who has money to buy
What do they call me
My name is SWEET THING
My name is Sweet Thing
My skin is brown
my manner is tough
I’ll kill the first mother I see
my life has been too rough
I’m awfully bitter these days
because my parents were slaves
What do they call me
My name is PEACHES
–Nina Simone, Four Women

Jay-Z’s recently released track, “The Story of O.J.,” has generated accusations of Anti-Semitism. The line in question, “You ever wonder why Jewish people own all the property in America?,” is uttered in service of a prescriptive solution to the condition of Black America. Castigating those “throwing away money at a strip club” for not prioritizing credit, he spits, “Fuck living rich and dying broke.” The song is structured around a “nigga” typology inspired by the Nina Simone song, Four Women, whose chorus the song samples. While Simone’s song elaborates the multivalent expressions of Blackness lived in the wake of Anti-Blackness, Hov marshalls an indictment of “house nigga,” O.J. Simpson’s empty claim, “I’m not black, I’m O.J.” to sell the “only hope” for Black America,  “financial freedom.” We’re told to take the “drug money and buy the neighborhood, that’s how you rinse it,” instead of dying “over the neighborhood that your mama renting.” Buy, for to rent is to die. Offering himself as a cautionary tale, he speaks of feeling “dumbo” for not buying a property in DUMBO, wishing he “could take it back to the beginning” when he “could’ve bought a place in Dumbo before it was Dumbo for like 2 million. That same building today is worth 25 million.” Business savvy born of hindsight will allow us to do as he did and buy “some artwork for 1 million, 2 years later, that shit worth 2 million. Few years later, that shit worth 8 million.” Demonstrating a sense of the possibility he might be treating over the line of his own, quite Christian typology of Black authenticity he exclaims, “Y’all think it’s bougie, I’m like, it’s fine,” and  underscores the generosity of his “trying to give you a million dollars worth of game for $9.99.”

The song trades on the pretense of opposing racist tropes that index Blackness with poverty such as “living rich and dying broke,” yet the Black typological figures of his “counter-discourse” remain constituted through their pathological Blackness, rendered legible by their inability to recognize the deal of a lifetime, the financial freedom of personal responsibility. It is this valence of Black abjection that sutures Hov’s Anti-Blackness to Anti-Semitism as extensive capacities of Christian Coloniality.
Some responses to the line’s invocation of the Kabbalistic trope of nefarious Jewish control of financial and economic institutions have indicated that it seems out of left field. A turn to Fanon and Baldwin offer us the possibilities of feeling Christian Coloniality in the entanglement of Anti-Blackness and Anti-Semitism as extensive capacities of whiteness.
“At first thought it may seem strange that the anti-Semite’s outlook should be related to that of the Negro-phobe. It was my philosophy professor, a native of the Antilles, who recalled the fact to me one day: “Whenever you hear anyone abuse the Jews, pay attention, because he is talking about you.” And I found that he was universally right—by which I meant that I was answerable in my body in my heart for what was done to my brother. Later I realized that he meant, quite simply, an anti-Semite is inevitably anti-Negro.”
–Frantz Fanon
Fanon’s devastatingly simple point draws our attention to a valence of the relation between the The Negro and The Jew, namely the comorbidity of their institution as abject figures in service of that which constitutes them to perform its grace, Christanity and its metonym, whiteness. We now have the possibility of feeling the way that the affirmation of the abject nature of the non-Christian becomes available in myriad, albeit entangled forms. James Baldwin generates more resources toward this possibility:
“[The Jew] is singled out by Negroes not because he acts differently from other white men, but because he doesn’t. His major distinction is given him by that history of Christendom, which has so successfully victimized both Negroes and Jews. And he is playing in Harlem the role assigned him by Christians long ago: he is doing their dirty work.”
–James Baldwin
And so in the eyes of Christianity, of whiteness, the Jew is never more truly itself, never more the Jew as an instituted non-Christian figure of abjection than when performing whiteness in the sacrament of Anti-Blackness. What can we feel the in the possibility that race is not something that inheres in the body, but the miracle of Christian Coloniality that incarnates the Racial Life of the body as relational intensity? What can we now feel in the relations of domination that constitute The World’s bodies through extending the affective capacity to affect and be affected in the service of the grace that affirms the Racial Life of Christian Coloniality? We might feel how Christian Coloniality offers the extensive capacities that invigorate the performance of Anti-Semitism in “The O.J. Story” as entangled with and in the service of Anti-Blackness as they affirm the sacramental abjection of Racial Life. We might feel the possibility that Blackness is never more itself in the eyes of whiteness, never more Christian than when practicing Anti-Blackness. For if the Christian life of grace is racial, its is white.

Note: This piece is informed by the work of theorists, Christine Goding, Northwestern University, Daniel Barber, Pace University, Christina Sharpe, Tufts University, Adam Kotsko, Shimer College, and Barnor Hesse, Northwestern University.

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