Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Beyoncé: The Power of A Voice

You know you that B* when you cause all this conversation” ~Beyoncé, ‘Formation’ 

Truer words have never been spoken. A black woman having the “audacity” to use her platform as an artist in both video and performance to raise awareness and call attention to a climate of police brutality was met with seething fury. I’ve seen comment threads now calling Beyoncé every deplorable name under the sun. Interestingly enough, white male performers for decades have used their artistic platform in the same manner, long before Beyoncé, in the form of celebrating the Confederate flag (i.e. Kid Rock, Lynyrd Skynrd, David Allan Coe, Hank Williams Jr, etc.) But the Confederate Flag was dismissed from being a symbol of hate and violence to simply a figure of history that deserved honorable mention. The Black Panther Party, however, when embodied in Beyonce’s performance, is dismissed from being advocates of Black Civil Rights, instead falling under the gross mischaracterization of being figures of hate, violence, and “reverse racism”. (A phrase used as a defensive deflection by those who benefit from a systemic advantage based on race, who desire to prove that People of Color don’t truly have it that bad and are not the only ones put at a disadvantage or targeted because of their race.)

Saturday Night Live aired a hilarious skit a week after the release of the “Formation” video entitled, “The Day Beyoncé Turned Black”. The skit depicted the not so exaggerated reaction of whites to the “Formation” video, uncomfortable with Beyoncé touching on a history of systemic racism, displaying her blackness in all of its “Who Run the World? Girls!” glory. Most white people were comfortable when she was just singing about generic topics of love, single life and being a “naughty girl”, but the moment she addressed a relevant topic of systemic racism and police brutality (not anti-police, mind you), she was denigrated by certain members of society and is being boycotted by some police unions nationwide. The same unions I don’t recall protesting any of the various past KKK rallies across the country. The accusation is that her song “Formation” and performance advocated violence against police. The NYPD is even going as far as wanting Beyoncé to publically apologize for what they consider an “Anti-Cop performance” and go into detail about the real meaning.

The irony and hypocrisy is that those who are angered over what they view as a misrepresentation of the majority of police officers in the media, are the same ones who simultaneously bash the Black Lives Matter Movement as a hate group comprised of “thugs”, all while remaining deliberately obtuse to the true meaning of and need for Black Lives Matter. Deflections such as “All lives matter!” are cried and accusations of self-segregation are hurled into a conversation much larger than just Beyonce’s performance. But somehow opponents of her message are attempting to use her as a scapegoat for a negative social dynamic that has been present for decades. In fact, Senior Justice Writer Shaun King wrote a detailed and in-depth article about Blacks taking the heat for crimes against cops committed by whites. I feel like there are many waiting with bated breath to see what Beyonce’s personal response to all of this will be. Amid the police boycotts and uproar, outside of her upcoming, almost sold out Formation Tour and her charitable initiative #BeyGood fundraising for children suffering from the Flint Water Crisis, Beyoncé herself has been relatively quiet. Regardless of what happens next, I thank artists like Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar for raising their voices.