By: Kara Crutcher
Let me start by saying that prior to the release of “Formation”, I was already an avid member of the BeyHive. However, the release of this single is a pivotal moment in Beyoncé’s career, it will mix up the dynamics of her fan following, and she will be seen in a new light as an artist.
My love for Beyoncé, in addition to my love of dissecting the layers of creative works, have put me in the position of feeling almost too overwhelmed by feelings of joy and empowerment to write this article coherently. But I do have some thoughts that I’d like to share, so let me break this down one at a time.
This is by far the most political work that Beyoncé has ever done. She is notorious for her privacy when it comes to her personal life, including her stance on various social issues that affect the black community. Is she just a private person? She very well could be, but the notion of black people toning down their “blackness” in professional situations is nothing new. Flat-ironing down afros, leaving the “slang” at home, even changing the cadence of our voices — these are all things black people are very familiar with. What is so epic about “Formation” is that in an industry where Beyoncé has had to play it safe to reach the point of success and stardom that she has, this is the first time that she has come out and given zero fucks about appeasing white standards of beauty, and even fewer fucks about keeping non-black people “comfortable” with her blackness. She is in a very unique position to spread that message, considering she is easily one of the most celebrated and widely known music artists of this time.
Everyone remembers that scene in Chappelle’s Show when Paul Mooney said “Everybody wants to be a nigger, but nobody wants to be a nigger.” Now, I am not even going to start dissecting the usage of the n-word, but for all intents and purposes before you continue reading I need you to understand the message behind his comment, and not focus on HOW it was said or else I’ll be writing this for hours. What Paul Mooney means is that people LOVE appropriating everything about black culture. The clothes, the slang, and hair (looking at you Ms. Dolezal). However, nobody wants the struggle that comes with being black. Everyone gets real quiet when the Trayvon Martins of the U.S. are mercilessly shot dead in the street, or when Fox News replays the footage of that one black person being rescued during Hurricane Katrina (making it seem as if real efforts to save black people in New Orleans were in motion).
Well, here’s the deal. Beyoncé came through with the “Formation” music video to remind everyone that she is first and foremost a black woman, something many people seem to have forgotten in the midst of all this appropriation. I can’t even estimate the amount of negative comments I’ve seen on the internet in which newly ex-Beyoncé fans declared the disappointment and hurt the felt with Beyoncé asserting this “Pro-Black” message. With all due respect, let the white tears flow. She loves her daughter’s hair and those impeccable Cheddar biscuits from Red Lobster. She is proud of her black American history, and has felt all the pain that the black community has felt when we continually witness our lives and existence devalued. She comes from and loves the black culture that is consistently stolen and imitated. Gone are the days of the “Beyoncé isn’t like other black people” mentality, and I am 100% here for it.
Side note: following her Super Bowl performance, I saw an article posted by Vogue Paris entitled “Trend Alert: How to Wear Braids Right Now,” a response to the several braided styles Beyoncé rocked in her “Formation” video. However, with the exception of a picture of Beyoncé from the video and one of model Jourdan Dunn, all the braided styles pictured in the article are of white women. Braids have never been, and never will be, a “trend” in the black community; they are a part of our everyday. I’d be shocked to find a black girl at any age that has never had her hair braided. Box braids. Micros. Cornrows. There is no way that Beyoncé’s braids in this video are unintentional, and I find it hysterical that somehow after Beyoncé makes this amazing pro-black music video, the media has white women pioneering Beyoncé’s “newly” started trend.
There are so many other things I want to unpack because the layers to this video go hard. This article really could go on forever. So as I wrap things up, keep in mind that I’m not disregarding the other aspects that need to be dissected. I’m just not trying to have you reading a twenty page article on Beyoncé (which sounds delightful in my opinion).
However, I want to make one last point. In the past week Beyoncé has been getting an incredible amount of shit from the media about using her platform of being a superstar to talk about race.
Well, to all those people who feel that way, you can gladly sit the fuck down and hold on to your two cents. When a black person is in their creative process and incorporating imagery, language, and/or movement that represents their experience of being black — the good, the bad, and everything in between — what they are doing is sharing their experience, and it has nothing to do with anyone else’s comfort level. It is not Beyoncé’s fault that black people have, in so many shapes and forms, been oppressed. But the bottom line is that she is black and she has every right to finally come out and use the hard work she’s put in over the past twenty-plus years to comment on what that experience is. She has black women of so many beautiful shades dancing their asses off and getting in formation to show off how phenomenal they are. The video features Big Freedia, who is revered for NOLA Bounce music, doing a voice over. White police officers surrendering to a little black boy. Good sex and a follow-up meal. New Orleans drowning. Blue having fun with friends. Talk about intersectional feminism! These are all things that are a part of her life, that she cares about, and that she wants to share. So take it and get into formation, or you can remove yourself from the BeyHive because trust me, Beyoncé does not care if you decide to leave.