While Beyonce's SuperBowl performance seems to be the new litmus test for racism, what fascinates me most is the conviction of worship. Last weekend did not disappoint my inner-anthropologist as I watched the sheeple take formation to protect their shepherd. The Yonce effect spawned a multitude of brilliant and moving commentary, dare I join the tide.
Beyonce's success has transcended entertainment and become religion. That's not a hyperbole to those who understand the mechanics of dynamic propaganda. My critical amazement is that Queen Bey yields power solely through performance-- without even speaking.
With the exception of stating her goal was to evoke a sense of pride, Beyonce stays taciturn while self-anointed disciples speak in her defense. Entranced by how she "slays," she becomes the destined poster child for feminism, Black Live Matter and whatever is next. We are one album away from prefacing her name with "The Honorable."
I like Formation -the song (and whoever wrote it), the video (and whoever directed it) as well as the Superbowl performance (and the dancers who raised awareness of Mario Woods). It's important to separate these entities because many enthusiasts have trouble discerning the entertainer and her machine. She deserves credit for her astronomical inspiration and playing the long game of being political but let's not convolute a dance routine with a revolution. Subtract one or two lines from Formation and it's a "proud to be trap" song gilded as a "proud to be black" song.
In addition to proud heritage, the lyrics promote the white value system of a "black Bill Gates," Givenchy and Red Lobster not Eleanor Cleaver, Tracey Reese and Patti's Pies (who probably wouldn't have given her credit for the sales boost anyway). Beyonce can make you go to Red Lobster after sex but can she make you meet Killer Mike at a black bank to open up accounts for your Superbowl babies?
The reason black people take this so personal is because the struggle is real - not just in the sense of having concert dreams on a cheddar biscuit budget - there's high anxiety from all the legal landmines being added to the playing field each day. Beyonce has the privilege of beautifying the blood, death and tears of social issues while disguising consumerism in sheep's clothing. That's not to say she's a wolf, rather an astute business shepherd who knows when to announce her world tour to her sheep. Now there's nothing wrong with that, per se, but I have a problem when over-zealous Beyonce Stans re-sell me her intentions or the meaning of her product which is called art when it conveniently applies.
Bey's respectability politics operate on their own terms, allowing for her faithful followers to ascend but only to a point. The packaging may be different, but the pedagogy is all too familiar. Resist or dismiss her formula for agency and find yourself "eliminated," banished to the fringe of black intellectualism and discourse. Bey's route towards power in this sense is an ultimatum. As she addresses her listeners ("ladies"), she urges them to "get into formation," to take action, while keeping herself at the forefront as a role model and example of how both "grace" and "paper" translates into power. "Prove to me you got some coordination," she demands. Comply or be silenced. The options are clear: Utilize what Audre Lorde would call "the master's tools" or be rendered irrelevant. -Dianca London
Pardon if critical thinkers sound self-righteous. Some educated consumers wondered why some worshipers felt the need to swarm on Red Lobster on for not taking advantage of Formation's free advertising. Maybe it wasn't free, only Bey knows. I'm just curious if the BeyHive will promote the Black Panther documentary with the same tenacity or will Beyonce have to Live Stream for them?
Look, she made theme music reflective of the times, just like hundreds of songs that were the soundtrack to civil rights and black pride throughout the last 40 years of the 20th century. What's really telling is the void of conscious-minded music and videos. So now songs like "Formation" and Kendrick's "Be Alright" become highly celebrated protest anthems by default. The difference is one of those artist knows actually how to exploit their audience without it appearing as such. Sorry, I felt the energy shift. Exploit is too strong of a word, perhaps I should say "strategically capitalize." Again, it's smart and I believe it's done without malice deception yet one could argue it's executed with the gracious pretense of tithes collected by a televangelist. Damn, that implication is also too strong; mainly because I feel like her heart is in the right place and she really wants to help fight injustice but the congregation has put her pedestaled pulpit so high she has no choice but to travel by chopper.
In this Kingdom Hall of BeyHova, I'm thankful Bey & Jay are NOT abusing their power. Though they quietly support a multitude of good causes, the human nature of have-nots will never be satisfied with their unselfish acts of charity. When you're on their level of wealth, some only perceive altruism as an act of tax evasion.
I'm conveying multi-dimensional messages so let me clarify as I conclude: I'm Pro-Beyonce and Anti-Beyonce worship. Making her a deity depletes the best parts of her humanity.
This is a plea deal for how we can co-exist. Let's all stop questioning her heart. Let's stop telling her what she should do with her money. Let's agree that some people are corporations too. Let's not turn a Beyonce thank you note to a journalist into a news story, it's unethical. Let's be sensitive to constructive criticism without dismissing it as hate. Let's be respectful to Beyonce fans of all races. Let's not live in a world where SNL's Beygency skit is a reality. Let's admit Beyonce co-opted Solange's Nawlin lifestyle - relax, that was a test. To paraphrase and alter one of her husband's lesser known lyrics, let's eat our breakfast before worrying about her genitalia.
After we flawlessly wake up and eat a proper meal, let's stay woke to defend her against the police and other powers that don't "bee." Let's realize when those powers are using her to pimp us. Let's ignore the Anti-Beyonce rally on Feb 16, they don't really want it--that's why the organizer remains anonymous--and we know that follows the tradition of smiling in our faces by day and hiding under white hoods at night. Instead, let's use their rally to promote the Black Panthers documentary that airs later that night. Let's make our children watch it. I'm sure that would make Huey, Bobby, Eldridge, Fred, Kathleen, Elaine and (in the same breath) Beyonce all proud. #SayItLoud
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