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On February 16, 2016, there will be an Anti- Beyoncé Protest Rally outside of the NFL Headquarters in New York. How odd, right? I would have never imagined reading such information in the news, but it is true. Superstar performer Beyoncé is receiving a plethora or criticisms due to her half- time performance at this year’s Superbowl. Beyoncé’s critics, who planned and organized this rally, argue that her song of choice promoted racism and was “a slap in the face to law enforcement.” Beyonce performed her new single, “Formation,” which she released a day prior to the Superbowl.
Now, I am not exactly sure what makes Beyoncé’s song racist. For starters, let us establish what exactly racism is. Racism is defined as “the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.” Racism is based on a system of oppression, and differs greatly from discrimination. While anyone can be discriminatory toward another race, only those who benefit from the system of oppression can be deemed racist. Therefore, Beyoncé’s song cannot be racist, but can still arguably be discriminatory.
Now that we have got the technicalities out of the way, it is important to actually analyze the lyrics of this song. I have, myself, listened to this song over and over again. There is no hate speech of any sort in her lyrics. She does, however, reference her own race multiple times. For example, she states, “My daddy Alabama/ Momma Louisiana/ you mix that Negro with that creole/ get a Texas Bamma.” Here, she is referencing her racial heritage specifically. Beyonce also referenced race in the following lines, “I like my baby [‘s] hair/ with baby hair and afros/ I like my negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils.” In those lines, she is simply expressing that she adores her daughter’s natural hair and her husband’s wide nose, both of which are routinely criticized by the media. I recognize no hate speech of any kind in these lyrics.
I would be able to understand some sort of outrage if Beyonce had proclaimed that her black heritage or black features made her superior to other races, but she did not do anything of the sort. Beyonce did not even do so much as to mention other races once in her song. She does not sing of anything violent, she does not include lyrics that are demeaning or offensive to any other races. She does express her admiration for her own heritage, but I am completely dumbfounded as to how that is considered discriminatory. Yet, there are countless songs that mention the beautiful blonde hair and dreamy blue eyes of the singer’s lover, and nobody is holding protests against those artists.
So how, do you ask, do the Anti- Beyonce protestors find any validity in their arguments? I have an answer for you; the “Formation” music video. The song itself has no questionable, sensitive lyrics whatsoever. This, I believe, makes it completely okay to be performed at the Superbowl. The music video is another story. These people are outraged because in Beyoncé’s video she flashes a sign that reads “Stop Shooting Us.” She also features a young boy in a hoodie, dancing in front of police. Following this scene, the young boy puts his hands in the air and the police follow by putting their hands in the air. This is widely known as the “don’t shoot” symbol, which serves to display that the individual being apprehended is unarmed. Critics argue that the video makes references to the Black Panthers, who were established to counteract the Ku Klux Klan and protect blacks from act of terror. The Black Panthers was dismantled by the U.S. Government but the Ku Klux Klan still exists today and is not recognized as a terrorist group, despite their violent and obscenely racist history. Critics believe that the Black Panthers was a racist group and that Beyonce was threatening white people and law enforcement by reflecting the Black Panthers’ views in her music video. The police force feel threatened by a sign that reads “stop shooting us.” Yet, when black people feel threatened by countless murders of our people and we hold rallies, marches and sit- ins we’re deemed radical, unreasonable racist thugs. When we are the victims of racism, we are told that racism no longer exists. All of a sudden it exists when white people feel like it is happening to them. Ponder that for a few minutes.
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