By Sonya Magett
Less than 24 hours after Beyonce’s performance at the SuperBowl’s halftime show where she made a statement about police brutality, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani criticized it and members of the National Sheriff’s Association are asking for a boycott. Despite the hoopla for releasing her Blackest video and performace ever, all some Black folk care about is Beyonce’s blonde hair weave.
The release of “Formation” reminds me of the history of other artists who found their Blackness long after they achieved success– James Brown, Fela, etc. then used their celebrity to contribute to and promote the Black power movement. Sadly, Bey and her dancers literally creating a formation of the “X” which represents Black power before almost 200 million television viewers evoked criticism for something far less important than the issues she addressed in the video, for her blonde hair weave.
The criticism reminds me of the same gymnast Gabby Douglas received when she competed in Olympics XXX in 2013. While Union was breaking world records, winning 2 gold medals petty folk were more concerned with her hair than her history making excellence.
There are so many ways to look at this but my favorite point of view was broken down by Dr. Yaba Blay in On ‘Jackson Five Nostrils,’ Creole vs. ‘Negro’ and Beefing Over Beyoncé’s ‘Formation‘. The native New Orlean wrote that it’s our own personal historical narrative with colorism that forces us to “look at Bey sideways.”
“..people who are light skinned, with non-kinky hair and the ability to claim a Creole heritage have had access to educational, occupational, social and political opportunities that darker skinned, kinkier-haired, non-Creole folks have been denied. In many ways, among those of us who are not Creole and whose skin is dark brown, the claiming of a Creole identity is read as rejection. And I’m not just talking about history books or critical race theory. I’m talking about on-the-ground, real-life experiences…So while it may seem innocent that Beyoncé describes herself as a mixture of Creole and “Negro,” this particular celebration of her self invokes a historical narrative that forces some of us to look at her sideways. Even in the midst of her Blackest Blackity Black Blackness, we find remnants of anti-Blackness.”
Yes, Queen Bey may have contradicted herself at times– her shoutout to Givenchy screams materialism and capitalism to many who expressed she is bragging about the wealth she achieved that many of her fans have not. But she is not perfect, she is not even an activist, says filmmaker, writer and professor Dream Hampton in an on-air interview with NPR’s “All Things Considered“. Maybe fans are expecting too much from her.
“I think it’s a stretch to call Beyonce an activist,” Hampton told NPR. “And I don’t know that activist is such a compliment. What we need out here is organizers. No, what she is is a cultural force and artist and icon. She might be her own goddess, might have her own little Orisha power, but she’s not an activist. I think that she’s someone who is paying attention like anyone her age to what is going on.”
Why can’t Black critics focus on Bey’s somewhat newfound activism? It is evident that people are clearly putting their own personal issues with colorism and masking it as something else. Bey surely could have worn her own natural hair during the Superbowl halftime show–she directed and paid 40 black women to wear Afros at Super Bowl, hello! And she herself is wearing her own natural Afro in the “Formation” video. And 3 years after walking a New York City march with Trayvon’s mother and Al Sharpton, no doubt.
I think it’s a crying shame people are writing she doesn’t care about Black people because she wore a hair weave, all while celebrating darker skinned women who wear black colored weaves with natural styles.
These critics’ contradictions are dizzying. It makes me wonder how many of these critics have rolled up their sleeves and performed hands on community work. I’d bet money even the disgraced white woman Rachel Dolezal has done a lot more in the community than most of Bey and Gabby’s hair critics. In my opinion, focusing on the hair versus the work puts you in the same lane as Fox news correspondent Stacey Dash because the comments are not unifying but divisive, it is against the very formation that Beyonce is calling for in song.
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