By now you’ve probably heard about or seen Beyone’s Superbowl performance (shown below in case you missed it. If the video doesn’t work, check out this link here). Debuting her new song, “Formation,” Beyonce’s performance was nothing short of brilliance and political activism.
Skipping over the specifics of the performance (like Beyonce’s back-up dancers sporting Black Panther attire, or her newest hits’ politically provoking lyrics), let’s talk about why [white] people are so offended. Many people are upset over Beyonce’s obvious stance with the Black Lives Matter movement (which many have compared to the Black Panther Party), claiming that she has no respect for or understanding of the police force, and the protection they provide for stars like herself.
Others are accusing her of exploiting black tragedy for personal gain, like the author of this article from Slate. One of the questions Shantelle Lewis, the author, chooses to highlight in her piece is, “For an artist to become political, must she perform against a backdrop of black tragedy?”
Opposition to such a controversial message such as this is expected. But amidst the negativity, there are many Beyonce supporters. For a joint article in the New York Times, Jenny Wortham wrote;
“This video feels like the ultimate declaration from Beyoncé that the tinted windows are down, the earrings are off and someone’s wig might get snatched, judging by the scene in the hair store about 1:22 minutes in.
Personally, I support Beyonce wholeheartedly. I think she is genuinely lending her fame to the Black Lives Matter movement and shedding light on the uncomfortable racial tensions that the U.S. has always had, but never addressed. I can understand why individuals like Lewis could take offense to the video, as it is clearly taking place in New Orleans, but I do not think Beyonce would ever intentionally exploit the culture to gain popularity.
I was especially impressed with Beyonce’s inclusion of Messy Mya, a young black artist shot and killed in New Orleans in 2010 (which you can read more about here and here). I didn’t initially understand the significance of his inclusion in the song (or who he was before looking him up), but I think Beyonce’s decision to include his voice recordings in the song only emphasizes her understanding of the challenges African Americans are facing (especially in regards to gun violence). The inclusion of Messy Mya also gives context to the New Orleans backdrop of the video.
You can watch the video below if you haven’t seen it yet (if the video doesn't work, check out this link).