Newsflash: A Whole Bunch of White People Just Don't Get Beyonce
As you’re no doubt aware, Beyonce released a new single and video over the weekend. It was, to say the least, perfection.
And yet some unfortunate human people weren’t able to grasp the sunbeam shining down on them. Even after Beyonce performed “Formation” the next day at the Superbowl. The song, which has strong overtones of general empowerment, female empowerment, and black empowerment, just didn’t sit well with certain people. Fox News’ Michelle Malkin let the world know she wasn’t enjoying Bey’s performance as it was happening.
The Bey Hate continued Monday morning with the c*ntservatives at Breitbart decrying Bey and Jay-Z for owing “their success to the capitalist system the leftist Black Lives Matter movement is intent on destroying.” Because asking the police to stop shooting black people, and being an affluent, upstanding artist, and contributing member of society are mutually exclusive now? Following in that pattern of not understanding how a black woman can be angry at the world and also expect to be treated equally, Fox News brought in Rudy Giuliani.
First of all, let’s all acknowledge that Rudy Giuliani just doesn’t “get” music, and would be much happier if we all lived in the town from Footloose. Because when asked about his thoughts on the Super Bowl halftime, he started off with this gem:
I think it was outrageous. The halftime show I thought was ridiculous anyway. I don’t know what the heck it was. A bunch of people bouncing around and all strange things. It was terrible.
Anyway, back to the actual things we’re talking about, Giuliani didn’t understand how Beyonce could accept a police escort to the stadium (AS IF YOU COULD BE BEYONCE AND NOT HAVE POLICE KEEPING YOUR MILLION STALKERS AWAY AT ALL TIMES), and then turn around and make a music video that reminds us about police brutality and murder, and costumes and choreography reminiscent of the Black Panther movement.
This is football, not Hollywood, and I thought it was really outrageous that she used it as a platform to attack police officers who are the people who protect her and protect us, and keep us alive. And what we should be doing in the African-American community, and all communities, is build up respect for police officers. And focus on the fact that when something does go wrong, okay. We’ll work on that. But the vast majority of police officers risk their lives to keep us safe.
Here’s one of the major fundamental problems that keeps these white conservatives from seeing what Beyonce is saying. And it’s the same thing black Americans have been saying basically forever, and it’s the center point of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. When Giuliani and everyone else in a position of power— or no power, basically just anyone with a narrow-minded, ill-informed opinion— says “We’ll work on that,” THAT’S NOT ENOUGH. So yes, OBVIOUSLY Beyonce wants a police escort. She wants to make money off her music. She wants to be able to acknowledge that she is black and not have to neutralize and bland-ize her persona to sell concert tickets. She wants to give a voice to African Americans who are tired of living in fear of being shot while carrying cell phones. Absolutely none of this is unreasonable. (Of course, the fact that “Formation” is the “IDGAF Anthem,” not just for black people, but also for women, is bound to ruffle feathers. A strong, rich AF woman talking about taking her dude to Red Lobster as a reward for f*cking her good is NOT going to be a lot of people’s favorite song.)
And the thing is, it’s not just Breitbart and Fox News and the uncle you hate talking to at Thanksgiving who think Bey overstepped or was straight-up offensive in her performance, her video, or the song itself. While talking in racial umbrella terms makes a barely-pre-Millennial California liberal white girl like myself HIGHLY UNCOMFORTABLE, and I am not at all saying that white people aren’t allowed to like Beyonce’s music in general or “Formation” specifically, I do agree with the sentiment that’s been going around since the song’s release: this is not for us.
As one white writer at Apolitically Incorrect would like to remind fellow white people, “not everything has to be made digestible for white people.”
And another brilliant and also white Bitter Gertrude has more all-too-true words as to why any fellow white person complaints here need to be kept to ourselves.
You don’t like how white people are being portrayed? Spend some time thinking about why Black artists are portraying white people that way instead of demanding they adjust their stories to conform to your self-image as “the good guy.” We are not the heroes in these stories. We are not the intended audience. We are irrelevant, and there’s nothing people in power hate more than to be made irrelevant, but the fact remains that these are Black stories, by, for, and about Black people. You don’t like it? Don’t watch. But I recommend that you do, and give it some real thought. This is their truth. You do not get to dictate how Black artists see or portray their own lives.
She has some advice, as well.
My fellow white people: Listen. Listen. Listen. This is a Black moment, rarer than rare in this culture. If you don’t like the way Black artists portray white people, work on changing the impact of white people in Black lives, not on telling Black people they’re wrong about their own lives.
White people: we are allowed to like Beyonce. We are allowed to like “Formation.” We are also allowed to not understand “Formation.” But when we see images and hear lyrics that strike us in a jarring or uncomfortable way, let’s take a moment before we condemn the song, the video, the performance, the woman, the culture, or the context for being wrong.
Also, while those two articles I just quoted ARE spot-on, if you are a white person looking for insight about Beyonce (raises hand), consider checking out this spectacular coverage from Awesomely Luvvie, “We Slay” from New South Negress, and this thorough breakdown from Very Smart Brothas.
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