Beyoncé has returned with a new PR-driven project; woven within the enclaves of phony populism, the politicisation of the grief of newly sonless black families, and apparently, the long-suffering emotions of a woman scorned. With that, allow me to douse scorn all over her new album.
Much like the aftermath of her Super Bowl performance in February, I waited for the liberal media to gaze at this new work with sighs of adoration. Enter The Guardian, stage left (obviously), and the besotted Ijeoma Oluo:
“I was not expecting to shed a lifetime of tears. But I did.”
Frankly, if I’d had to listen to a Beyoncé album to realise that black people, and indeed black women, have been suffering for generations, silenced by the societies who stole and sold them, insulted every day by stereotypes and stigmatisations – even by their own men, thanks to the evolution of the hip-hop video – then I’d probably be crying too.
I’m puzzled by the absence of suspicion for the whereabouts of the old Beyoncé, at pains to distance herself from any form of controversy – especially when it came to her blackness. Since Crazy in Love, she has spent the past several years trying to look as white as possible for universal appeal. (Are we supposed to treat the fact that Beyoncé wore a long, blonde weave whilst performing her Black Panther-esque routine during the Super Bowl as far from hypocritical, far from a joke?)
I’m puzzled by the absence of suspicion for the whereabouts of the old Beyoncé
As I’ve said before, now that it has become flavour of the month due to the Black Lives Matter movement (largely born out of social media, which, like many other social media campaigns, suggests that it is the most unfortunate of fads with a bleak destiny) to protest against systematic and institutional racism towards blacks, Beyoncé emerges with her masterful team who have managed her career for years through reinvention. Now, thanks to writers like Oluo, we – the women of colour – are left in the pitiful position of looking towards a Beyoncé album to teach us about what to think, and how to behave as black women. And what does Beyoncé teach us?
Beyoncé teaches us that it’s okay to model yourself on white women
Beyoncé teaches us that it’s okay to model yourself on white women to be considered likeable, and have wide appeal. Beyoncé teaches us to passively accept infidelity in the person we love, particularly if he’s rich, famous and Jay-Z – and to even embrace it if it will create a buzz about a new record we happen to be promoting (and in spite of our sister who sees him for what he is, and promptly decides to attack him in a lift). Beyoncé teaches us that shaking our “bootylicious” body parts in barely-there outfits is the only way to give black women a “voice”.
And what about that issue – of giving blacks a voice? I hear this all the time when I argue against the Bey-hive/Bey-lluminati: “But, but…she’s giving black people a voice!” In what context, and by what means? Such an argument can be applied to many absurdities. Notable musicians (Prince, Axl Rose, and many more) have been said to have recorded moans of women while having sex with them to put on an album, not always with their permission. Is this doing women a favour by, quite literally, giving us a voice? It’s right to object to the exploitation of a woman’s sexuality in order to sell records, just as it is to object to the exploitation of the black parents used on Lemonade to make a racial, regressive point in the most warped of platforms and contexts.
So thank you, Beyoncé, for your belated, convenient concern for my father who was rounded upon in the street by three police cars for no other reason than fitting that generic black man description favoured by the law; for my brother’s friends, encouraged to treat prison like a perverse holiday resort favouring young, black male clientele, offering longer stays for future prospects at a discounted rate should they return. But no thanks.