George Clooney, Bono, Donald Trump. Each of these individuals, whether you agree with them or not, are passionate about very specific things and very inclined to share their passion with the world-at-large. Whether in front of the United Nations, a packed stadium, or a university, they are lauded for their views and encouraged to use their fame to share them. Now, particularly the three individuals that I named, do not have very much in common; however, they each have one critical attribute connecting them. They are all white.
Now, keep that fact in mind while I set this up properly. I would be remiss if I didn’t say that I am a Beyoncé fan. Fan might be too weak of a term. Devotee might be better.
I have been in awe of her ever since I heard Bootylicious on my friends’ cd player riding the bus to school. That awe evolved into a respect, not only of her art, but also of her business. It takes a lot to maintain one’s image and control what people say and when they say it. She has mastered the art of crafting a public persona that is at once well-manicured and effortless all at the same time. That incredible persona, while incredibly poised, also makes her an incredible target. No one ever goes after the person on the bottom of their game.
That brings us to present day. Now that I have had some time to process the spectacle that was the Super Bowl 50 Halftime show and read all the arguments for and against her performance.
Typically, white individuals in the court of public opinion begin to raise their voices and lash out against that individual with terms that racialize; they focus on the color of their skin and not the words coming out of their mouths. In this case, Beyoncé didn’t even say anything controversial. Most people took fault with the way in which her dancers were dressed! They also said that her dancers raising their fists in the air, like one would do at any sporting event mind you, symbolized the signature of the Black Panther Party.
Now, I could go into a historical debate about the views of the Black Panther Party and how Beyoncé’s performance/song did or did not espouse them. However, I could not do that conversation justice in the space allotted. One could write a thesis on that topic (you can credit me for that idea anytime). However, that’s not really the point. It doesn’t matter what Beyoncé was trying to present or whether she was trying to present anything other than a killer a dance number.
Most of the scrutiny against them focuses on the fact that they are raising particularly black opinion; Clooney and Bono share their opinions all of the time, but they are simply opinions and not white opinions.
I want to urge people to take issue with Beyoncé just like they take issue with Trump. However, let’s take issue with their specific words or art and not the color of their skin. I personally feel that everyone is entitled to an opinion and has a unique story behind that opinion. I urge everyone to share their thoughts, but in a way that leaves out the ad hominem attacks and focuses on the issues at hand. Race is easy, it is surface and the most base. Let’s elevate our discourse and not take this easy road out.