Facebook posts have pissed me off once again but, this time, they’ve pissed me off on a more serious topic. Though I would never believe that I would find myself defending a pop star’s performance at Superbowl 50, here I am–doing exactly that.
*Please note that most bolded terms (with the exceptions of full sentences and passages) are hyperlinks to extra information and sources regarding this article. I encourage you to look them up for a better understanding of the situation.*
There have been a number of personal Facebook posts regarding Beyoncé Knowle’s halftime performance from last Sunday, but posts from political websites have just now been appearing. This post in particular caught my attention. What truly astounded me, however, were the specific people sharing this post on Facebook. Ignorance aside, I assume that most of these people are simply not educated on the matter–or the symbolism–Knowles was attempting to convey in her performance. Please, allow me to inform you on the topic of racism in America, reverse racism and the Black Panther Party.
If you haven’t watched Johnathan Gentry’s video yet, please do that now. Gentry shows us three minutes of rage and opinion, which I most certainly applaud him for. It takes a lot of courage to passionately post your views on social media, only for them to go viral (either that, or a need for attention).
Gentry begins by exclaiming there’s a “double standard” that exists within America: reverse racism. “You can’t tell one group: sit down, shut up, what you do is racist and offensive to me–put your Confederate flag away,” Gentry says angrily about the reactions of African Americans to particular symbols (i.e. the Confederate flag) seen in American culture. He continues on the same tangent, saying that Beyoncé wanted to “parade and shove” how she felt down “everyone elses’ throat.”
“If anyone else wanted to do a performance to celebrate how they feel about their past [referring to the white population],” Gentry continues, “We would be pissed.”
There is a difference between what Beyoncé did and what, as Mad World News put it: “a half time show in which Jessica Simpson wears a Confederate flag bikini with an all white dance crew that does a KKK salute.” There is a significant difference between the symbolism surrounding the Confederate flag and the KKK, and the Black Panther Party and black pride.
Most educated people should know the significance behind the Confederate flag. The Confederate flag was developed in 1861, after the South seceeded from the North. It was not, as most people believe, developed as a “battle flag.” Though it was used in battle, it was primarily designed as a flag to represent the Confederacy, AKA the states that were fighting for their right to keep and hold slaves–black people–as personal property and, essentially, their own walking, talking mules. The Confederate flag was made to represent the support of slavery, an organized movement that oppressed a specific group of people.
The KKK, in return, was essentially developed for the same reasons. Organized by southern men during the Reconstruction Era (if you don’t know what this is, please educate yourself on some American history), the KKK was meant to bring the new government of the South out of power by attacking public officials, specifically newly elected African Americans. The KKK was developed as a white-supremacist group that conducted acts of terrorism on the groups they opposed in order to “purify” America. The Ku Klux Klan was literally developed in order to create and encourage violence.
The Black Panther Party, contrary to popular belief, was not created to encourage violence or black supremacy. The Black Panthers first congregated in 1966–a fact that Gentry gets right–in order to oppose brutality (both from the police and from civilians) towards African Americans because nothing was being done to stop it. While peace marches were being held and peaceful protesting was taking place, the Black Panthers felt like nothing was being done to protect black citizens from the violent responses to these protests. Yes, they dressed to intimidate. Yes, they bore weapons. But what are you going to do when no one is stopping the violence being shown against your own race? The Black Panther Party was developed to protect people of color and monitor police brutality throughout America.
The Black Panthers worked to protect civilians from police brutality, police brutality that still exists in America today.
It’s true that the Black Panther Party did turn to violence in some situations, but their acts were nothing compared to that of the KKK. What were they going to do when their people had been brutally murdered and shown injustice for hundreds of years and nothing had ever been done about it?
Yes, the Black Panther Party was a group of extremists, but this group was created to defend themselves–as human beings–against violence seen from the majority race. They were no al-Qaeda (formed to enforce Islamic beliefs worldwide by performing acts of terror) and they were no Ku Klux Klan (formed to make a more white, “pure” world, enforcing Christianity), of which both groups are deemed as terrorist.
The Black Panther Party was not, in any way, a terrorist group seeking to create a black-supremacist world. Black Panthers just didn’t want to see innocent people of color killed by white bigots who had never fully understood oppression.
Which leads me to my next point, that I am just going to flat-out say.
There’s no such thing as reverse racism.
Let me say that again for those of you that may need it repeated: there’s no such thing as reverse racism.
Reverse racism doesn’t exist, not in America at least.
Prejudice and stereotypes do exist for all races, even in America. Racism, however, can only apply to those who have been violently, emotionally and/or politically oppressed. In a country where 80% of its citizens are white, it is literally impossible for racism to exist for people that are white.
White people–as a collective population–have never had a problem with deportation, we’ve never had a problem with unjust treatment in the courts, we’ve never been denied access to anything because of our skin, we’ve never been treated like animals by other human beings. White people have more privileges than we can count on our two hands and we have continually taken advantage of these privileges and we don’t understand just how lucky we are to be, well, white.
And if you believe that it is possible for white people–as a whole–to be mistreated becasue of their race, you are brimming over with ignorance.
Now, it is possible for an indiviual white person to be mistreated by someone of a different race. There are politically incorrect things to call a white person (i.e. “cracker”). Some white people can be misunderstood because of their race.
Until white people have a problem, however, with mass police brutality (how the fuck is this still a thing?), being lynched by the hundreds every year for centuries for “inappropriate” acts (Emmet Till makes me mad every time) or being blamed for a white person’s crime (To Kill A Mockingbird, anyone?), they have not experienced racism.
There is no reverse racism. There is no double standard.
So, let’s do a quick review, shall we?
- The Black Panther Party was not racist like the Confederate flag.
- The Black Panther Party did not have the same intentions as the Ku Klux Klan.
- Reverse racism is not a thing in America.
Keeping these points in mind, let’s take a look at Beyoncé’s halftime show.
Many assumptions about Beyoncé’s message are coming from the symbolism of her dress, backup dancers and, well, the show overall. Knowles wore a black leather leotard, adorned with a large “X” across her bodice. The “X” didn’t stop with her clothing, however, as her backup dancers had an “X” formation towards the beginning of her number. Many are taking this as a symbol of Malcolm X, another misunderstood representative of the Civil Rights Movement.
All of the backup dancers (and Bruno Mars) were people of color and wearing black. Beyoncé’s female backup dancers, in particular, wore clothing that–without a doubt–looked just like something worn by the Black Panther Party.
To top it all off, Beyoncé sung specifically about black pride in her new song Formation, choosing to also premiere the music video the same night, causing a lot of talk. The video itself has powerful symbolism, illustrating the fight for equality for black people over the generations and expressing pride in being black, particularly in being a black woman.
This annotated video is particularly good to watch and, also, the only full-length video I could find online for you to watch.
The scene that is creating the most controversy, however, is the continual shots of Beyoncé lying on top of a New Orleans police car in, what is supposed to be, the flooded streets of New Orleans. Many are taking this to be representative of the rise in police brutalities throughout America and, with her video taking a largely “Black Lives Matter” stance, it’s not surprising to think this way. When I watched the video, however, I had a completely different interpretation and I would like to offer that to you now.
When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, most of the city had been evacuated. Most of the city, that is, except for the poorest parts–the parts that were filled with predominately black people–without access to cars or, due to the situation, buses to get out in time. Katrina hit and most of the desperation directly affected people of color. At the time, there was a lot of outrage because there was hardly any response–especially that from the national government–to rescue these people stranded in the flooded city.
Even then, the reponse from New Orleans police was anything but acceptable. There are many controversies surrounding the response of local police to the people of New Orleans and, much of the blame lies in the fact that the poor, black people of New Orleans were all but deprived of help for days.
In a country that had recently experienced a terrorist attack which had immediate response, coverage and help from the government, something that was somewhat a “natural terrorist attack” was expected to receive the same amount of response. But since this happened in a relatively poor city full of people of “less importance,” our government did not rush about responding to the chaos in New Orleans.
Some argue that this could be, in fact, racially motivated (I’ll be referring you to the book Zeitoun). Here’s how this is so: people of a lower class (black people) are congregated into a poorer part of town (the “ghetto”) and most of these families do not have cars. When the city is evacuated, few buses are running and none of these buses are stopping by the poor part of the city. Essentially, these citizens (once again, predominately black) do not have a way out of the city. This is why, when Katrina hit, these were the people to experience the full brunt of the storm.
I’m not saying that the response (or lack of) was racially motivated. I’m saying that, due to de facto segregation, it was the African Americans left to wait out the storm. I’m not even going to delve into the mistreatment from New Orleans police upon responding to civilians, but it was there and–again–could be, arguably, racially motivated. (Seriously, just read Zeitoun.)
Whatever Beyoncé was trying to highligh in her song, it’s clear that she was trying to bring attention to an umbrella of events: racially equality and the struggle in achieving it.
Beyoncé’s performance was not racist. Beyoncé’s new song is not racist, nor is it offensive. It’s simply stating the facts.
The only real “problem” we should be worrying about from the halftime performance is the fact that Queen B nearly fell on her ass on live television.
Image Courtesy of: aceshowbiz.com