Butthurt over Beyoncé
They’re coming for Queen Bey and she ain’t sent for no one. A blacklash has erupted since Beyoncé’s rousing Super Bowl halftime show where her backup dancers wore costumes inspired by the Black Panthers (Bey herself wore a costume honoring Michael Jackson’s 1993 Super Bowl performance.) The dancers also formed an “X” as a nod to slain civil rights activist Malcolm X. The show came a day after the singer released a new song and video called “Formation” which depicts the singer laying atop a police car sinking into flood waters reminiscent of Hurricane Katrina, proud exhortations of blackness and shows a young boy dancing in front of a row of police in riot gear with a jump-cut to graffiti saying, “Stop shooting us.” The one-two punch of the video and performance gave a good number of people the vapors worse than Janet Jackson’s nipple.
Outraged viewers ran to their devices to share the supposed “hypocrisy” of Bey criticizing police brutality while relying on police for security. Another often shared sentiment is that the performance was “racist.” “What if a white singer used backup dancers in Klan robes?” is another pearl of wisdom from the keyboard activists. And the biggest trending hashtag about the performance is #BoycottBeyoncé.
As for the hypocrisy allegation, it doesn’t hold water. There’s nothing in the video or Super Bowl performance or lyrics that condemn all police. Americans have got to get better at grasping nuance and complexity. It says something about a person who can’t understand that if I condemn police brutality, I’m not condemning all police. It’s a criticism of a behavior by some police. You might want to write that last sentence repeatedly on a sheet of paper if you can’t understand the concept on first glance.
I’m a writer. If someone launched a crusade against plagiarists I wouldn’t be offended because I’d know they’re not talking about me.
How does the hypocrisy charge even make sense? If Beyoncé criticized police who violate people’s civil rights and brutally beat them and then contributed to those cops’ defense and supported them then yeah, that would be hypocritical. The fact that she’s escorted by police to perform is prima facie evidence that she trusts cops who do their jobs! If I criticize the North Charleston police officer who was captured on video shooting Walter Scott in the back last year, does that mean I’m a hypocrite if I call police because someone’s broken into my house? That makes no sense.
Was it racist for Beyoncé’s dancers to wear costumes inspired by Black Panther uniforms? Is it like a white pop star dressing their dancers in Klan robes? The Black Panthers were a black nationalist group and were certainly anti-police, but that didn’t occur in a vacuum. The reality is that the police have historically been the arm of the state that oppressed blacks. You couldn’t enforce the black codes or Jim Crow without the police. And often members of the police force were members of the Ku Klux Klan. Or if they weren’t, they would tip off the Klan when a black was released from jail. Police brutality and denial of civil rights is indisputable historical fact.
And I certainly don’t deny or defend the violent activities of some Panther members. They believed the nonviolent civil rights movement failed and decided armed struggle was the way to throw off the yoke of discrimination and racism.
Bobby Seale, the co-founder of the Black Panthers said, “Working class people of all colors must unite against the exploitative, oppressive ruling class…we believe our fight is a class struggle, not a race struggle.” That doesn’t sound racist to me.
If the extent of your knowledge of the Black Panthers and black power movement is Wikipedia and Fox News do you really think you’re informed?
“The Autobiography of Malcolm X” as told to Alex Haley is one of my favorite books. It would probably help folks if they actually read it. No one seems to want to let Malcolm X evolve. He is forever cast as that Black Muslim who called white people “devils.” But upon leaving the Nation of Islam and journeying to Mecca, Malcolm had an awakening. He wrote about his pilgrimage where he ate from the same plate, drank from the same glass and prayed with people of all races. He said in these white Muslims he “felt the same sincerity that I felt among the black African Muslims…We are truly all the same brothers.”
But is Malcolm X and the Black Panthers, who probably numbered 5,000 members at its zenith, the equivalent of the Klan, who at his height boasted 4 million members? The Klan’s goal was to circumvent Reconstruction and keep white supremacy in place. They used murder, beatings, arson, bombings and cross burning to intimidate blacks and right-thinking whites. To equate an organization dedicated to maintaining white supremacy with one dedicated to fighting it, even if their methods were violent, is absurd. I can’t imagine the British viewed American revolutionaries much differently than the white power structure viewed the Black Panthers.
And finally we have #BoycottBeyoncé. I don’t think people understand how boycotts work. The Montgomery Bus Boycott in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955-1956 worked because blacks, who normally rode city buses, stopped riding them. The city was crippled economically by it. If you don’t normally buy Beyoncé records, singles or tickets to her performances or anything else she sells you’re not boycotting. If I announced a boycott of Justin Bieber it would be ineffective because he hasn’t made any money of me and wouldn’t be losing any. I doubt Bey is going to be performing to empty stadiums when her Formation tour kicks off.
I’m not writing this as a fan of Beyoncé. I think she’s beautiful and talented and is part of a power entertainment couple with her husband Jay-Z who are becoming more and more socially conscious. She and her husband have sold over 100 million records and their combined worth tops a billion dollars. That’s great but I’ve never bought an album of hers.
I’m a Bruno Mars fan! (As an aside it’s interesting that Mars has taken no heat for the costumes he and his dancers wore just like Justin Timberlake suffered no backlash when he exposed Janet Jackson’s nipple during the Super Bowl halftime show in 2004. No, I’m not saying its a race thing. It’s the woman that bears the scarlet letter.)
I watched Beyoncé’s Super Bowl halftime performance and found it entertaining. I think most people did until some bloggers, and people looking to be offended by something on social media thought they would virtually stamp their feet and hold their breath in indignation. And once the faux outrage gets started online it’s mindlessly shared and shared until eventually it’s forgotten and we’re onto the next outrage.
Maybe Kanye West will say another stupid thing, or Donald Trump will sink to a new low and we’ll be off to chatter about that. I’m sorry if I can’t get that worked up by the stylistic choices of pop stars. And while I’m at it I also have to say I can’t summon up the energy to be outraged about the #OscarsSoWhite controversy. I’m more concerned about good minority and female actors getting good roles in movies and also jobs behind the camera, than the opinions of some stiffs in the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Were you really outraged by Beyoncé when you watched her performance or did it come after you’d read about it online or saw some picture or caption on social media? Bey would say it’s time to “get in formation.” I tell the haters its time for them to get information.