Shawn "JAY-Z" Carter was the first guest on CNN's new talk show, The Van Jones Show, last night. The hour-long program gave Jones, a former advisor to Barack Obama and a longtime CNN contributor, plenty of time to ask his guest about a range of topics, from the #MeToo movement to Colin Kaepernick, Meek Mill to Donald Trump.
The conversation about Trump was particularly interesting, given that Carter has often veiled (however thinly) his criticisms of the President in interviews. Asked about Trump's remarks, reported by the New York Times, about Haiti and many African nations being "shithole countries," Carter said that he found the idea "hurtful." But, he insisted, "this has been going on; this is how people talk." As he did in his Times interview last November, he brought the conversation back to Donald Sterling, the former owner of the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers, who was forced to sell his team in 2013 after making a series of viciously racist remarks in a leaked phone conversation.
On The Van Jones Show, Carter again suggested that Sterling shouldn't have been forced to step down, as such sanctions only force racism back behind closed doors. "Once you do that, all the other closet racists just run back in the hole," he said. "You haven't fixed anything. What you've done was spray perfume on a trash can."
He kept the analogy running. "You don't take the trash out," he said. "You keep spraying whatever over it to make it acceptable and then, you know, as those things grow, then you create a superbug. And then now we have Donald Trump, the superbug."
Jones also asked Carter about Meek Mill, who is currently serving between two and four years in federal prison for a minor probation infraction. Carter, who wrote an op-ed for the Times in November about the criminal justice system's stalking of black men like Meek, explained why he was doubling down on his support for the Philadelphia rapper where others might have backed off. "Meek is a beacon," Carter said. "He's a vessel the light goes through to bring attention to this issue[…] Unfortunately, in America, this happens to black and brown people way too often. When you're on probation, you're on this paper[…] He's been on probation for 11 years. It's almost like you're tethered to this thing, and they're just waiting for you to do something wrong."
Carter also discussed #MeToo, comparing the movement to the fight against institutionalized racism. "I believe everything happens for a reason," he said.
Everything is a learning experience: the good, bad, and the ugly. This had to happen to purge itself, for men who've been in position for so long. Of course, if you're in that position of power, to abuse your power, you get drunk off success. It's like human nature. It takes a really special person to have that sort of power and not wield it. So it has to happen—this movement and everything that's going on and what we're finding out.
It's like racism—it existed the whole time. It's almost like we normalized it. The normalization of the things we have to do to survive. For women to go to work knowing that this sort of abuse was happening every day. Logically you'll say, 'Why would you stay there?' Yeah, what's the alternative? You have to survive in America.
JAY-Z also discussed his marriage to Beyoncé and his support for Colin Kaepernick. Watch those clips via CNN below.
Follow Alex Robert Ross on Twitter.