Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Lemonade: Not Everything Is About You

“The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.”

Regurgitating what social media has been saying about this record is pointless, the interesting element to the release of 'Lemonade' is the "backlash".

One of the articles that has people talking is Piers Morgan's on the Daily Mail. (Who ironically ensures Jay Z is in the title of his article to get maximum exposure.) It's apparent to me that Piers's main concern, that's making him "uneasy", seems to be the "shameless exploitation" of the mothers of the victims of police brutality, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner. He quotes an interview he had with B 5 years ago, in which she said she doesn't think people think about her race, that they look at her as an entertainer and a musician and that it's not about color and race before saying:

I still think she’s a wonderful singer and performer, and some of the music on Lemonade is fantastic. But I have to be honest, I preferred the old Beyoncé.
The less inflammatory, agitating one.The one who didn’t use grieving mothers to shift records and further fill her already massively enriched purse.The one who didn’t play the race card so deliberately and to my mind, unnecessarily.The one who wanted to be judged on her stupendous talent not her skin color, and wanted us all to do the same. 
Let me start from the top, and tell you what makes me uneasy.

First of all, I'm not going to brush over the obvious.

You're "uneasy" because Beyoncé's not white enough for you anymore.

Not only is the title actively perpetuating the message that she should be making people nervous with her "born-again" message, but there is an explicit reference to her message as "aggressive, "inflammatory" and "agitating", further fuelling the 'angry black woman' stereotype that we are trying to eliminate.

My immediate response to a work of art like 'Lemonade' is exactly that...that it's art. Whether autobiographical or not. That's besides the point. And when it comes to art, the creator is oftentimes irrelevant. Beyoncé is shedding light on things that society decidedly turns a blind eye to. Whether she talks race or doesn't she will be making money just like she has been for over a decade. Get over it. And most of all, don't think we're dumb enough to take that age-old argument alone as a good enough reason to invalidate a project that has empowered many. It's not enough. The point is, we're faced with the faces of people that have stories to tell. Stories that are forced to shut up on the daily for the sake of some peace of mind and bringing fabricated solace to guilty consciences. 

Her project will inevitably make different people feel different things and will spur discussion of all sorts. The project stars an all-black cast and showcases the work of young black artists. The project celebrates culture, culture that is only ever brought up for being "unjustly called out for appropriation", or not brought up at all! The project commemorates a journey - both a universal and personal one. 

And yet it is reduced to a "discrepancy" in Beyoncé's image.

As expected as it is, it's a little embarrassing for Piers here, an allegedly intelligent man, to wholly dismiss the opportunity Beyoncé has expanded for black women in terms of identification and representation. Her image has always been one of power, and it could fairly be argued that that position was not utilized to the maximum in terms of speaking up about what "matters". However, her previously guarded approach should not be allowed to downplay the discussion or the worth of the message because in that respect, it holds no relevance

Not experiencing something does not make you immune to invalidating it. We cannot attribute everything to ignorance. Some people, myself included, have not experienced the spectrum of oppression yet they continue to acknowledge and attempt to understand it. And granted, people are not perfect and will say or do things that do not further their message or align perfectly with the values they hope to uphold, but that cannot be an unshakeable excuse for a lack of desire to understand or to acknowledge.

As I speak from a position of unawareness, I maintain that I am open to listen and learn. But an attempt at tearing down a message that is bigger than you and not for you with an attitude of righteousness is not an acceptable display of ignorance.

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