Over the last couple of years internationally there has been a more aggressive discussion surrounding race, sexuality, gender and diversity within the western world. The United States has featured prominently within this debate. This is due to the plethora of stories emerging that cast a less than flattering light on the country’s policy, with regards to these issues.
Discourse opposing and exposing what is seen as the unequal approach to diversity within multiple industries is right now at the forefront of news post Oscars with the verbal backlash around a lack of diverse nominees.
#blacklivesmatter has created rhetoric so strong it has been heard within the international community. Equally domestically within the U.S the influx of voices clamouring to be heard has culminated in riots and protest. #blacklivesmatter resonates so deeply due to the seemingly cavalier attitude of police culture within the U.S. This is specifically based on racial stereotyping concerning African Americans’ and indeed any minority member of the country, exposing an insolence that ends with no accountability.
This has created significant debate surrounding inequality and in turn the appropriation of minority cultures within a white washed society. Cultural appropriation is carried out by the usual white privileged contingent, with their consistent paternalistic attitudes towards cultural property and attempts at proprietorial rights over a cultural expression not their own. What is absurd about this appropriation is that many of the expressions they covet are expressions that are in response to the perpetuation of low socioeconomic communities by the appropriators themselves. But before I end up in a continuous ranting tirade about the above, I’ll move on to the premise of this article and the premise is Beyoncé.
Beyoncé and her new track ‘Formation,’ through imagery and powerful lyrics, backed up by an open acknowledgement of black stereotypes examines all of these issues in one massive celebration of African American culture. AND I FUCKING LOVE IT. This in combination with her super bowl half time performance of the same song, which unapologetically and almost aggressively puts forward recognition of black power ideologies with a nod to Malcolm X and the Black Panthers, makes one helluva engaging and affecting record. This is literally a song that uses popular culture and its mediums to smash through prevalent stereotypes faced by African Americans every day.
But I mean, Queen B doesn’t stop there, her lyrics and indeed the name of the song ‘Formation’ is like a call to arms for women. Ultimately, though Bey’s discussion is centred on African American women, recognising women of colour as one of the most disenfranchised groups within American. Not only are they women, but they are bound within consistent racial stereotypes as well. ‘Formation’ itself alludes to the establishment of a movement and Bey has no problem calling it.
With lines such as “Ok ladies now let’s get in formation, cause I slay” and “if he fuck me good, I take his ass to red lobster” Beyoncé manages to flip ingrained gender role stereotypes empowering African American women to realise their capability within society and to be proud of their cultural ideals and heritage. We see it within the fashion choices, the afros, the braids, the shop full off weaves and ultimately in the dance formation. Queen B uses this platform to really ram home to her millions of viewers a multitude of significant issues. Footage of a sinking police car in combination with a child dancing peacefully in front all white police officers and then an intense shot stating stop shooting us,’ adds yet another layer to an already beautifully layered video. Forcing whoever is engaging with this record to think about racial stereotyping and police culture within the U.S. And even though I sit here within the bounds of my own white privilege without any direct understanding of how this may feel or what it must do, it still made me sit the hell up and think about it. Beyoncé forcefully and awesomely celebrates her own culture, well at the same time ensuring whoever watches or listens to ‘Formation’ rethinks their own cultural stereotyping and appropriation tendencies.
So while I love this song, like fucking LOVE THIS SONG; I will not dance to it in a club or adopt its lyrical genius because it’s not about me and it sure as hell ain’t mine. It’s a celebration, of which I can have an outsiders view of, to cause me to think, to revaluate, but it’s a celebration I will not be invited to. And that’s the way it should be.
Literally Beyoncé calls it about her own song ‘You know you that bitch when you cause all this conversation’.
Ash Hampstead-Smith – Would a profound literary quote be relevant here? Perhaps as a way to indicate to you, the reader that I am in any way at all qualified to be writing these opinion full and somewhat scathing articles? Most likely. But I am not qualified, I mean my tertiary education could be used as a qualification but really who cares about that. Apparently no one, including me. So I am Ash. I write about things that cause me to think. I like it. If you don’t that’s your prerogative. Feel free to follow me on Instagram @ashisbadtothemax (yes its ridiculous, it was a satirical take on a friend’s younger brothers email address firstname.lastname@example.org) beware I take a significant amount of pictures of my cat LORD ROLAND.