• author
    • Kelvin Wade

    • February 11, 2016 in Columnists

    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.


    • AMEN and A-WOMAN!!! Beyonce’s performance WAS over the top, and it was pure art! Art, music and dance is meant to communicate, and good for her that she used her moment in the spotlight to communicate! She has a new fan.
      You, of course, already have me as a fan!

        • Kelvin

        • February 12, 2016 at 9:49 am
        • Reply

        Thanks! I really wish there was a way to determine people’s reaction after seeing the performance vs what they felt after reading blogs, tweets and other social media posts telling them they should be outraged.

    • It was such a pleasure to read such an intelligent column about the Beyonce SB50 half-time show. I loved it, and I always love your work. Admittedly, my experience with the police is EXTREMELY different from the mainstream, but I am always glad when artists and writers become more socially conscious! Queen Bey inspired me to look up her video and lyrics (even a deeper appreciation), do a little reading about the Black Panther Party of Self Defense (unfairly demonized — consider the free breakfast for school children), and to have some hope that social justice can eventually occur. Anything that causes the police UNIONS to have a hissy fit is always worth looking into — they the real hate mongers. This was an amazing piece of writing!

        • Kelvin

        • February 12, 2016 at 9:56 am
        • Reply

        Thank you. We don’t do a great job of teaching or learning history in this country. I wonder how many Millenials even knew who the Black Panthers were. If the Atlantic slave trade never happened, the black codes and Jim Crow never happened…no Klan…no lynchings…no police brutality…then yes, the Black Panthers and black power movement would be shocking. Context matters.

      • Lilly Lidine

      • February 11, 2016 at 8:20 pm
      • Reply

      A tribute to the Black Panthers even while you state, “And I certainly don’t deny or defend the violent activities of some Panther members.” does not seem appropriate.

      The church shootings lead to the taking down of the confederate rebel flag from Govt buildings, rightly so.
      In New Orleans, a city built on history, is getting ready to take down monuments bc they honor men who fought in the civil war on the losing side. Lee at Lee Circle, PT Beauregard at the entrance of the City Park Art Center. Liberty monument built to honor racists police that killed new leaders of the incoming leadership after the war was lost to the north and others.
      A little progress in moving forward.

      It’s not right for southerners to display the rebel flag bc it hurts feelings….. why would it be right for a tribute to the Black Panthers at the Superbowl?
      I’m not fighting for either side on this.
      I just want people to progress into a present state where we can get along in the future.
      Keep digging up old hurts & resentments will follow.

        • Lilly Lidine

        • February 11, 2016 at 8:25 pm
        • Reply

        Ok , so I’m not a great writer… Let me edit here.

        * was lost to the north and other monuments .
        *That is a little progress….

        • Kelvin

        • February 12, 2016 at 10:09 am
        • Reply

        Hello. The problem is this isn’t an old hurt. The imagery of the Black Panthers was used by Beyoncé to address ongoing hurts. Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Sandra Bland, Laquan McDonald and on and on.
        Removing a Confederate flag and symbols from state government property is appropriate. I don’t see any state government flying black power flags or having statues of Huey Newton and Bobby Seale or Eldridge Cleaver on state property. If they did, it wouldn’t be appropriate. So these two things aren’t comparable. People are free to purchase Confederate flags and celebrate the Confederacy all they want. This is America.
        Ignoring history is the problem, not the solution.

        • Well, Lilly and Kelvin — two of my favorite people — I am glad everyone can discuss this intelligently. I adore you both. One thing I think everybody should understand is that being proud of being black does not mean that you are anti-white. Ironically, most members of the Black Panters WERE women who were sick of their children being killed just like TODAY. In this regard, I stand in complete solidarity with what Beyoncé and other artists (Quentin Tarantino) are trying to say (and Kathie Yount, too). Our police are out of control — their victims are almost exclusively brown, black, homeless, or mentally ill. Our courts have to share the blame for the civil unrest their bias is fueling. From my perspective, we would not have BAD police if we had GOOD courts. Most of us DO love fairness — what we are seeing is unreal. Until Dylan’s death, I had never seen anyone die. I could not believe Eric Garner’s death — ON FILM. Tamir Rice. Kelly Thomas. Walter Scott. I have watched them all. This has got to stop.

    • Nice piece. And Lilly, the Panthers were not anti white. They didn’t go around lynching white people. You can’t compare them to the Klan!

    • Kelvin you have got me thinking again. I think my heart aches, not for the problems African Americans face today. It aches for my in-action when there is clearly a call, a reason, for all Americans to stand up for what is so terribly wrong with our society. White America can never truly experience what Black America does but we can surely admit there are problems and that something must be done fix it and it must be fixed NOW! There is a fog of shame within me and if I want it to go away I am going to have to get off of my ass and get to work. Even a tiny step toward equality and human rights is better than no step at all. Beyoncé is expressing herself on behalf of all humanity and we should all join her instead of sitting on our ass and complaining which is a grand folly.

      • Aunt Terry Ramos

      • February 13, 2016 at 10:22 am
      • Reply

      I have nothing prolific to add to anything you said. Great article. My only complaint about the Super Bowl half-time show, was that they should gave had more Bruno Mars and WAY less Coldplay.

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