This February, Americans gathered around televisions to witness the historic Super Bowl 50 between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers. While many considered the game itself more or less uneventful, the halftime show did not go without appreciation and consequential controversy.
Performances by band Coldplay and artist Bruno Mars embodied a light-hearted, fun-loving display of music, while performer and icon Beyoncé took a much more contentious approach. Within the 90-second performance of her new single “Formation,” Knowles addressed issues of racism, the history of police brutality, the Civil Rights Movement and female empowerment and sexuality.
The performance began with Beyoncé in one of her signature black leotards with a group of similarly dressed black female dancers situated behind her. Their outfits seemed to reference Michael Jackson’s 1993 Super Bowl performance and symbolize the Black Panther Movement of the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement.
Eighty seconds into the choreography, the camera pans upward, creating a bird’s eye view of the female dancers forming into the letter “X”; a tribute to Civil Rights Activist and Leader Malcolm X. The entire performance, of course, is in celebration of Black History Month. Obviously the performance would not go without criticism, but the backlash against her display to empower black lives appalled me.
In response to this tribute, conservative media outlets were horrified. During a Fox News interview, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani argued, “I thought it was really outrageous that she used it as a platform to attack police officers…Let’s have decent wholesome entertainment and not use it as a platform to attack the people who put their lives at risk to save us.”
Well, you know what Fox News? Check your privilege! This demonstration of black empowerment is one of many that should be displayed during an American televised event because the oppression of black citizens in this country is a huge part of American history whether we like it or not. Taking into consideration February is Black History Month, I thought the performance was more than appropriate.
I apologize, White America, if the realization that white people have enslaved, exploited and discriminated against nearly every minority in this country makes you uncomfortable. If you want to target Malcolm X’s use of aggression and violence in the Black Panther movement and claim Beyoncé’s performance is promotion of that violence, then you better justify the promotion of militarism at nearly every National Football League game in the past 30 years. Oh, and let’s not forget about the NFL’s inability to properly deal with instances of domestic violence by their players against women and children.
As for claiming the performance was an attack against police officers, it simply was not. There has been discrimination by whites against blacks in nearly every corner of this country, including many instances within the United States police force that have resulted in unnecessary violence and deaths of black U.S. citizens. Beyoncé is not attacking police officers by pointing this out, and neither is the Black Lives Matter Movement. The black community in the U.S. has lost countless lives to police discrimination and this needs to be recognized and addressed. To dismiss that issue is to speak from a perspective of racial privilege that many clearly do not want to accept.
I don’t in anyway claim to understand firsthand the black community’s struggle with discrimination. I do, however, consider myself fairly knowledgeable about instances such as the Rodney King beating and the recent deaths of Freddie Gray and Michael Brown. Despite my innate privilege as a white woman, I recognize that my black counterparts face, without a doubt, far more discrimination than I ever will. Once all of the white citizens of the United States accept their role in the furthering of racial injustice by not recognizing their privilege, I believe we will finally be able to truly begin the fight against racism.
Kaitlyn Kelly can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.