New York, New York (TFC) — The Superbowl halftime became the talk of the night after Beyoncé’s performance of her new single ‘Formation’ in which she lyrically revels in her blackness and womanhood. Visually however, Beyoncé attempted to take a radical approach.
The performance by Beyoncé was visually impacting, with her backup dancers wearing iconic black berets reminiscent of the Black Panther Party and forming a large ‘X’ on the field, supposedly as a nod to Malcolm X on national TV. This was followed by an ad for her upcoming ‘Formation’ tour in which the proceeds of the tour would supposedly support Flint, Michigan’s water crisis victims.
The music video portrays Beyoncé in the south and had scenes reflective of the Katrina aftermath, showing police officers lined up in front of a child and ‘stop shooting us’ scrawled across a wall.
The internet is split over this, part of the internet boycotting her over her music video’s reference to police brutality while the other part has been championing this song and music video as a revolutionary act.
The Superbowl is one of the most viewed broadcasts with commercial slots going for millions of dollars. The fact that the imagery of the performance is displaying Black power through Black Panther Party and Malcolm X references is brilliant and notable on national T.V. However, the revolutionary message in itself is lacking.
Feminism and #Blacklivesmatter are both key issues that are dominating the U.S. dialogue at the moment, but much of the issues that lie within those two topics are rooted in classism.
She calls herself a feminist and no one can deny her impact on today’s women, Black women particularly. She’s made it a large part of her current musical persona to support self-love, confidence and the ‘fight’ for equality for women which is an important message, but her brand of feminism is liberal at best. Much of what she promotes is for women’s success on an individual level, through financial success, and does not touch on class issues.
There is hardly ever a reference to class differences in comments about the current paradigm from the multi-millionaire songstress. She revels in her economic class in her music, noting her access to all that is luxurious and expensive, clearly comfortable within the bourgeois class.
Her lyrics contain absolutely nothing about politics. After celebrating her roots from down South in ‘Formation’, she says that you or she ‘might be a Bill Gates in the making’ placing economic individual success as the goal. She toes the line, promoting the bourgeois class, but supporting the Black movement. She has no interest in breaking the current system, but rather uses her platform by placing bandages, such as mentions of feminism or #Blacklivesmatter to appease the masses’ rage against the machine.
Yes, her video references police brutality. Yes, her backup dangers look like Black Panther Party members. But what is she doing materially to fight racism? what is she doing materially to fight classism?
The sincere and truly revolutionary act is to support and work to dismantle the current system: the SAME system that is killing Black people, the SAME system that maintains the school-to-prison pipeline for children, the SAME system that allows catastrophes like Flint, Michigan to happen knowingly for years, the SAME system that depleted Detroit, the SAME system that supports gentrification all over the country and forces people into homelessness. Ultimately, the SAME system that allows some people to waste away in poverty while others live lavishly through the exploitation of others. I can go on, but it’s too frustrating.
Furthermore, the praise bestowed upon her for sharing this sort of ‘radical’ message despite the possibility that people would boycott her music is hardly necessary. The monetary loss resulting from said boycott would hardly dent her amassed fortune, while giving hardcore and potential new fans different reasons to support her music career, increasing her profit margins elsewhere. There is no doubt that her managerial and financial team would have considered this before supporting the release of a potentially risky song.
This is not to say that the entire system’s dismantling is only her job, It’s not. But it is ludicrous to place someone from the bourgeoisie on a pedestal and call them revolutionary or radical when they themselves are not doing anything to support the liberation of the working class (which is exactly what the Black Panther Party and Malcolm X are known for).
Notably, it is beneficial for her to have had references of the Black Panther Party on national T.V. as it will trigger questions and hopefully, proper research by new generations of color who have not had the opportunity to learn about it. It will force people to learn that the Black Panther Party were Communists, were armed and fought for their people. They will learn that they patrolled their neighborhoods against the racist police. They will see that the Party fed their neighbors and fought for access to basic rights. They just might, in the best case scenario, discover that the narrative provided by the mainstream media about leftists are not correct.
Beyoncé is not revolutionary or sincerely radical. As far as I saw, the performance was exciting and mentally stimulating but the only notable aspect of the song itself is the loud and unapologetic message of Black self-love. That I can agree with, 100%.