I never would have imagined my first post in 2016 would be about Beyoncé or the Super Bowl. If you know me, you know that…
Nor do I really care about most ‘top hits’ we hear on the radio. But there are some accusations being made that Beyoncé is ‘racist’ and ‘anti-cop’ because of her latest music video and single release called ‘Formation’, and I think we need to address these accusations.
Beyoncé released the video on Saturday, February 6th, and then the next day performed the song at the Super Bowl’s 50th halftime show. If you haven’t seen it yet, you might want to go ahead and catch yourself up before reading further.
The claims that the music video and performance of ‘Formation’ are ‘racist’ and ‘anti-cop’ stem from allusions to the Black Panther Movement.
To get any sort of understanding of what Beyoncé was saying with her halftime performance, we need accurate information around what the Black Panther Party was about. And we are probably not going to get it from our major news networks or school books.
A bit of helpful history: The Black Panther Party was founded in 1966 as a response to ongoing terrorism perpetrated by not only by explicitly white supremacist groups like the Klu Klux Klan (KKK), but also by the U.S. government. One of their main goals: self-defense. Self-defense from lynchings, police brutality, and the continued denial of black economic participation. The Black Panthers were also about quality education, housing, healthcare and employment for their communities. They created programs that fed and clothed their people. They drafted a ‘Ten Point Plan’, a party platform, where they envisioned things like freedom and an end to war. The Black Panthers formed themselves on a foundation of love for their people. (But for some reason the only thing we seem to remember about The Black Panthers is that they had guns…)
Conversely, the KKK operates (notice the present tense) on a party platform of hate and created programs for raping, bombing, and lynching black people.
So, we need to stop repeating all of the media nonsense about comparing the Black Panthers to the KKK. Comparing the Black Panthers to the KKK is kinda like comparing a helmet to a skull-crushing torture device. One is designed to protect, while the other was made for inciting terror and dismemberment. Also, watch yourself when you feel tempted to throw around ‘anti-cop’ allegations. Once we start getting ourselves some accurate history, we will see that describing Beyoncé and the Black Panthers as ‘anti-cop’ for asking that their children not be murdered by police is as logical as calling dolphins ‘boat haters’ for requesting they not be sliced open by propellers.
The Black Panthers existed not because they were ‘racist’ and prejudiced against white people. (Though I’m sure they weren’t altogether thrilled with white folks after 250 years of formal enslavement, 90 years of Jim Crow, and then the whole ‘separate but equal’ thing). The Black Panthers existed to uplift and protect the black community from a white-led enslavement and genocide of black people. And the black liberation movement persists today in the ongoing efforts to combat slavery in the age of colorblindness.
Whether you agree with the means by which black people organize for their freedom or not, the Black Panthers, Black Lives Matter, or any other movement for black liberation would not exist if white people had not kidnapped and enslaved Africans, created racism, and then continued to this day to oppress, exploit, and exclude black people. The white supremacist founding of our nation and ongoing oppression of the black community and other communities of color is the precise reason black people build movements of resistance. So, if you really can’t stand Beyoncé’s race politics popping up on your television or YouTube feed, you’d be wise to get to work on dismantling white supremacy. It will be a lot more effective than calling her a racist.
Lastly: Folks, this is bigger than Beyoncé. The movement for black liberation is about all of us and especially the folks doing the grassroots work in the trenches. The movement began the moment white people forcibly put African people onto a boat and mandated they build this ‘Land of the Free’. Putting an end to a 400+ year-old oppressive force like racism requires radical changes in our institutions, in our minds, and in our hearts. It’s going to take a cultural transformation. Our choice is to either keep standing on the sidelines, or to finally take that step into the rolling river headed for justice.
I say, let’s take the step and slay some racism.