“It makes me proud. That’s what I wanted. I wanted people to feel proud-to have love for themselves”, Beyonce said with a smile, surrounded by bodyguards as she prepared for her halftime performance.
Beyonce Giselle Knowles-Carter, the biggest star on the planet wanted people to be proud of who they were. When you really think about it, it’s one of the most noble things an artist can do-encourage self-love. While this wouldn’t be a problem if Bey’s target audience were white teenage girls battling self-esteem issues, the “people” Beyonce wrote about in her songs were Black, and they were women. For some factions of white America, THAT posed a problem.
“What happened after New Orleans?” A question most of us are still struggling to answer 11 years later- a whole city under water, mostly poor and mostly Black. The government’s lais·sez-faire approach in the handling of Hurricane Katrina would later become the subject of much ridicule and criticism. Beyonce, whose mother is a New Orleans native, was now shedding light on the topic more than a decade after in her newest music video, “Formation.”
There she was, atop a sinking police car, surrounded by homes tilted and submerged in what represented the flood that happened as a result of the storm. There she was, a mix of “negro and creole” as she put it, boldly declaring “I like my baby hair, with baby hair and afros, I like my negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils.”
“Stop Shooting Us” written in graffiti across a brick wall, police sirens, a small child in a hoodie dancing in front of police dressed in riot gear, Martin Luther King, Jr. on the front page of a newspaper-Beyonce was making a statement. Unabashedly letting the world know that she keeps a bottle of hot sauce in her purse just in case, and adding that she takes Jay-Z to Red Lobster when he “f*ck(s) [her] good,” this was Beyonce like we’ve rarely seen her. Exposed. Embracing her Blackness like never before.
Beyonce hasn’t always been so forthcoming when it comes to her stance on certain political and social issues. In the past, she’s played it pretty safe, making sure not to ruffle any feathers, her appearance always very non-threatening. Straight, blonde hair, fair skin, a thin nose, a plastered smile, she was a walking, talking, breathing standard of American beauty and respectability. But now, in the same video, she’s got braids down her back, she’s rocking an afro, and sporting a Gucci print two piece. She covered all the bases. Hell, she hit a Blackety Black homerun.
Over the last few years, we’ve seen a gradual progression, a change in Bey that I don’t think any of us were expecting. For most of the Black community, it’s a welcomed change, a change we’ve been waiting for to be quite honest. But for some of our white brothers and sisters, it’s a change that they are unwilling to accept, and more importantly, a change they don’t really understand.
Beyonce carries hot sauce in her purse. So does my auntie. Beyonce likes baby hair. Unfortunately, we all have at some point. Beyonce thinks people should be rewarded with Red Lobster biscuits. Same. This unspoken connection, this “club” that we’re all a part of, our inside jokes, our STUFF-we love it, and that is what makes people uneasy.
We’ve seen this before, from the emergence of “All Lives Matter” as a counter to “Black Lives Matter”, to certain white people (and Stacey Dash) complaining about Black History Month, some people simply can’t deal with the fact that they weren’t invited to the party. They’re like that one person who always comments under your fun pictures on Facebook with “No Invite?”-except they’re 100 times more annoying.
So let’s make this plain before we go any further-Dear White people, THIS SONG ISN’T FOR YOU, OR ABOUT YOU.
One of the people who didn’t get that memo was Lifestyle Blogger Misty Kingma, who referenced “Formation” in a tweet, announcing that Beyonce had just dropped a “new weird song.” Then there’s Roddy McCullough, a disgruntled tweeter who wrote, “Beyoncé can move her ass right out of my country. No room for her hate.”
I like Roddy’s tweet the best because it drives my point home. Historically, when Black people speak out against injustice, practice self-determination, do for ourselves, love ourselves, and speak for ourselves, we become a threat.
Roddy went on to call Beyonce’s video racist, as did many other angry white people in the Twittersphere. And while Roddy and his cohorts continued to drown in white tears, Black Twitter was on the other side of the Internet rejoicing and celebrating the fact that we all still had our Black cards (unlike Stacey Dash).
The truth is, Beyonce was better liked by some when she chose to stay quiet about the things that mattered. After making the decision to use her voice, a #BoycottBeyonce hashtag emerged overnight. In the thread, you’ll find disgruntled people, outraged that the NFL would allow Beyonce to perform such a “racist” song. On the same thread, you’ll also find members of the BeyHive actively telling Beyonce haters where they can shove their unwanted opinions about The Queen, so there is some solace to be found. And although most of the peeved folk using the hashtag won’t admit why they’re REALLY upset about the song, the message is clear-Beyonce needed to remain “respectable.” She needed to police her politics, her sexuality, and her speech-or else.
Via Business Insider, members of the National Sheriff’s Association turned off the halftime show, in disgust, and apparently some other unhappy viewers took to Beyonce’s Facebook page to express their outrage. “As the wife of a police officer, I am offended by this entire video,” one woman wrote. “Rise above and stay above the strife. For a girl who grew up in a privileged, wealthy family, she has no business pandering to those who didn’t.”
So what is it that angers people about Black people daring to love ourselves? Why do we have to be quiet about the things that matter to us, and most of all, why do people feel they have the right to silence us?
The truth is, they’re scared. And most of the time, fear translates into anger. People are terrified that Black people may actually take heed, that we might actually get into formation, and that we might actually unite against an oppressive system that’s existed in this country for centuries-a system that so many work tirelessly to uphold.
Maybe Beyonce’s lyrics were “weird” to Misty, but Black girls around the globe understood every damn line. We felt it in our hearts, and we felt it in our souls, simultaneously. We understood the relevance, the power, the bravado and we gladly accepted Yonce’s invitation to SLAY. It was a call to arms. It was the Declaration of Independence like only Beyonce could write. A liberated, Black girl national anthem. It was a charge to disown and unlearn all of the negativity that we’ve been force fed over the years about what it means to be a Black girl. In this song, Beyonce redefines it for some and reaffirms it for others. She took us to church and back, and now we have been made new. If we didn’t know it before, we certainly know it now-to be a Black woman in America is a hard burden to bear. We will be criticized, scrutinized, humiliated and discredited. But being a Black woman in America is also amazing. It’s the kind of thing you’d just have to experience to get it. It’s enchanting, fascinating, otherworldly. It’s beautiful. At the end of the day, that’s all Beyonce was really trying to say. We slay. And you don’t have to understand. It’s a Black girl thang.