I, like most people, found out about Beyonce’s new single because everyone on my Twitter timeline was completely losing their minds. So I, like any good millennial (I know I am on the older end, just let me have it) immediately dropped what I was doing to check it out.
Wow. I was as stunned as everyone else. The Southern Gothic imagery alone made me want to teach American Literature. Here were the two things I immediately knew:
- This video was not for me. It was not made for me. It does not belong to me.
- I am here for this video. I love it. I think it is awesome. I am very glad she made it and I am very glad that it has been seen by everyone I know. I would recommend it. I am trying to figure out how to teach it. (I think we would probably have to watch it without the words. But the images alone are worth talking about.)
What in the world does that mean, that something is not for me, but that I am here for it? Basically it is exactly like when one of my daughters is present for the other daughter’s birthday party. As a white woman, Beyonce’s video and subsequent Superbowl performance is like my sister having a really amazing party that I get to go too.
Y’all, your sister having a birthday party is a really really good deal. There is cake, there are games, there are snacks. People come to your house, those people bring presents, some of those are toys that you are for sure going to get to play with.
Sister birthdays are really second only to your own birthday. But sometimes my girls don’t see it that way. Sometimes, one of my girls throws a major fit because it isn’t her birthday. She wants it to be in charge of the cake and the theme and the guest list. She wants it to be all about her, and it isn’t her turn. Sometimes, (and this gets shut down REAL QUICK at my house) the other sister just sort of starts acting like it is her birthday, bossing people around and trying to lay claim to the presents.
The Beyonce performances of Formation are not our party. We are there, we get to be at the party. But the party is not for us. So we can’t be blowing out the candles and expecting people to sing to us.
Here is a present that does not belong to me: I got hot sauce in my bag. While I appreciate the sentiment, and have even traveled with people who carry their own hot sauce, I do not in fact identify with that particular swag. I am from the midwest. I don’t understand the love of hot sauce, but there is nothing on this earth that can’t be improved by a side of ranch. It is a personal tragedy to me that ranch must be refrigerated and cannot simply come with me wherever I go. My pants however, are grateful.
Don’t act like it is our party. It isn’t. That cake does not have our name on it. And we didn’t get to pick the flavor. Beyonce picked the flavor, that flavor is Unapologetically Black, and if you don’t like it, then that cake is NOT FOR YOU. (But probably you need to seriously consider the reasons you like Beyonce’s other flavors and not this one.)
And we don’t get to open the presents. I too found the Formation video extremely moving, especially the parts with the children. But that does not mean that I get to unwrap that junk and claim it as mine. I don’t have children who will ever have to face off against the police. My daughter’s hair is not up for public discussion. Ever. I can think those things are awesome, but I do not get to claim them as mine.
For the women who are throwing a gigantic fit because this isn’t our party, your mother needs to come get you and take you to your room for a time out. It doesn’t always get to be our birthday party and Adele JUST threw us one! CHILL OUT! Stop throwing a fit. You look ridiculous.
So it isn’t my birthday party, but that doesn’t mean I don’t benefit from it! Y’all when your sister has a birthday you still get to be there. We still have access to not just the Formation video and the amazing performance by Beyonce, but also ALL the think pieces written by our black sisters about what these things mean to them. The discussion of this particular video is rich, complex, and beautiful. I am learning a lot about the myriad of Black experiences simply because so many women have been gracious enough to share their thoughts with the world. They aren’t our toys, but they are being shared with us! That is a good thing!
It isn’t our party, so we shouldn’t act like it. But we can be here for it, and I for one am having a good time. If I act right, I might get invited next time, and I want in. This cake is delicious.