Note from BW of Brazil: OK so the media bombshell that was the Super Bowl performance of American singer Beyoncé is already old news. But the repercussions are still ongoing. In the latest reactions, groups have threatened to protest the National Football League over the singer’s performance and the Nation of Islam has stepped in and offered to provide security for the entertainer’s concert tour since the police doesn’t care to provide its services. All of this over a few minutes of singing and dancing? This is unbelievable on so many different levels!
One might ask why a blog that focuses on black Brazilian women and issues dealing with race in Brazil is even talking about a singer who is not Brazilian. Well the fact is that Mrs. Knowles-Carter’s performance had repercussions around the world, including the country in which many consider as having the largest population of African descendants outside of Africa. Even with February coming to a close, material coming from Brazilian sites and blogs about the “Queen B’s” performance are still being posted. As one piece showed a few days ago, Brazil simply has no equivalent of a black woman reaching the career heights of Beyoncé, so when a black woman causes such an international stir, her actions will be discussed and critiqued throughout the African Diaspora, and that includes Brazil.
But let’s take a quick look at this performance and come to some conclusions. Because of much of the imagery that Beyoncé used in her performance, there were folks out there calling her an activist, militant, a revolutionary. Huh? Because she made references to the Black Panthers because of her all-black female dance troop dressed in black and wearing afros? Because they formed an X at one point in the performance, apparently a reference to human rights icon, Malcolm X?
OK, but let’s get real. Beyoncé is NOT a revolutionary, nor a militant, nor an activist. What is my rational for saying this? For one thing, she is one of the best paid entertainers in the world and if she were a true threat to the system or were declare herself a leader of such a movement, the “powers that be” would have destroyed her career and possibly eliminated her years ago. How can one be revolutionary singing a song like “Formation” that speaks of being a black Bill Gates or taking her man to Red Lobster is he “f*cks her right”? The fact is that if Beyoncé were truly a threat, such a performance would not have been even allowed on television, much less on the single most watched television event in the United States. Didn’t Gil Scott-Heron once tell us that “the revolution will not be televised”? So then what does this say about Beyoncé’s performance?
I also wonder, in Brazil, the United States and so many other countries in which natural black hair is ridiculed, how revolutionary was it that one of the biggest black female stars in the world chose to continue rocking her straight, blond weave while her unknown dancers wore afros? Not exactly an example to be followed for black women, such as those in Brazil, who in recent years have come to proudly accept and wear their natural hair in a society that belittles them for daring to reject the European aesthetic of beauty.
But the debate over B’s performance is significant for at least two reasons, one of which applies to both the United States and Brazil and the other which speaks specifically to the state of race relations in Brazil. In the first case, in both countries, it is common that persons who consider themselves to be white don’t necessarily see certain black people as being black, at least in the stereotypical manner of which blackness is associated in their minds. If a black person is very attractive, well-liked by the general public, is very rich or articulates himself or herself very well, the general white population may indeed not envision the person in question as black or at least not “that black”. In other words, according to widespread social constructions, black people are not perceived to be “regular people”, physically attractive, worthy of emulation or of upper class status. If they break through any of these socially-constructed stereotypes, speak out on racial issues or align themselves with any form of black militancy that challenges the desire of whiteness to shut down the very debate, they somehow cease being black. We’ve seen examples of this ideology in films such as Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, or in parody as in the Saturday Night Live skit entitled “The day Beyoncé turned black” (the video below translated the title of the skit as “O dia em que pessoas brancas descobriram que Beyoncé é negra” or ‘the day that white people discovered that Beyoncé is black’)
It’s an issue that black Brazilians are quite familiar with. After all, according to Brazilian consensus, why would any Brazilian define him or herself as “negro” or “preto” when they can just be “morenos”, which is much more “acceptable”? How many Afro-Brazilians have already heard reactions such as “Negro/Negra?!?! You’re too pretty/light-skinned/intelligent/nice to be negro/negra!” The SNL skit resonated with untold numbers of black Brazilians who related to the video due to their own experiences, which is no doubt one of the reasons the video was edited and re-posted on You Tube with Portuguese subtitles.
I must also point out the significance of such a performance in a place such as Brazil where there has never been a black artist making such a statement in such a highly publicized event. Even though I reject any idea that B’s performance was in any way revolutionary, I DO see the value of invoking such images of resistance for black people in a country in which its most nationally and internationally recognized black stars such as Pelé, Neymar or actor Milton Gonçalves would never make such a bold statement on the issues of race or racism. For those who don’t know, both Pelé and Neymar have been utter disgraces in terms of racial matters, with Gonçalves rejecting the idea of racial exclusion in the naming of the 2016 Oscar nominees and other famous black Brazilians only willing to utter the cliché that “we are all equal” (see here and here), a phrase which does more to deny the reality of racism than confronting it.
So while I reject the idea that we mention Beyoncé’s name alongside that of Fred Hampton, I DO understand the meaning of her performance, even if it was only an image for show; because in Brazil, there simply isn’t anyone of status making such statements, real or artificial.
The day in which Beyoncé became black
Some individuals are our friends and admirers for convenience only. It’s enough that we do something or express an opinion that does not give them satisfaction to their supreme will and that’s it. The friendship and admiration ends. In truth, the admiration never existed; the friendship much less. You were only one piece on the board of that person’s life. While you were ensuring to them points, ok! When he/she realizes that you will not play their game, the person applies to you a game over. In other words, I don’t want to chat anymore. You no longer serve for me.
By Tom Nêggo
Singer Beyoncé is experiencing the bitter taste of this hypocritical part of humanity. This portion is much greater than we can imagine. The artist was one of the attractions on stage at the Super Bowl at the end of halftime of the American football championship, which usually has the largest TV audience in the US. The then great diva of American pop music, sang her new song, “Formation”, whose lyrics touch on the wound of racism in the US and blasts the violence and murders committed by abuse of power by police and in which victimizes blacks in that country for decades.
Besides dressing, she and her dancers, in outfits which referred to the Black Panthers group, an organization between the years 1960 and 1980 denouncing the abuses suffered by the population on the part of the US police and preached a black revolution in the country, Beyoncé also made a “X” during her performance, in a clear reference to Malcolm X, the great black leader and advocate of black nationalism in the US. One of the phrases of the song sung by Beyoncé on stage at the Super Bowl said: “You just might be a black Bill Gates in the making, cause I slay” It was a total uproar. She had just become the greatest quarterback in the history of the Super Bowl, with a pass of 100 yards, precise and accurate. But the ball fell like a bomb in the hands of the receiver. And as no one can hold a hot potato, discord occurs.
Beyoncé provoked the ire of conservatives and was triggered a boycott campaign against the artist. Even the former New York mayor, Rudy Giuliani, spoke out against the black empowerment discourse of the singer, claiming that the singer attacked the American police and encouraged violence. Other groups, including fans of the Super Bowl, repudiated what they classified as “hate speech and racism” and even organized a protest outside the headquarters of the National Football League. But why did a simple song generate so much controversy? Why is the diva of international pop is being placed on the wall?
Imagine you, who are black and reads this article, to talk about racism with your friends, neighbors or co-workers who are not black. Bring up the entire historical embarrassment that was caused to your ancestors and which today has consequences in our society. Surely you will hear phrases like: “Isso é coisa da sua cabeça” (This is all in the head), “Isso não existe mais” (This doesn’t exist anymore), “Somos todos iguais” (We are all equal.) But if you insist and decide to speak more forcefully, not accepting the inferior treatment given to you by your boss, not remaining silent in the face of racist attitudes in your day to day and putting your finger in the face and wound of whoever is a carrier of an internalized racism and does not realize that, get ready! You will be seen as a danger to society.
The oppressed becomes the oppressor of those whose ideas oppresses them, when not silent in the face of oppression suffered. Your righteous indignation at the injustice imposed on you ends up being used against you, arguing that is you are a highly dangerous subversive and that at any moment can spark a wave of backlash on the oppressed, thus preventing the system to continue to favor the traditional fascist variety that holds power. In fact this is a dangerous subversive is a liberator who educates others and alerts them to assert equal rights in relation to all. Beyoncé was subversive in the eyes of fascists. She dared to publicly challenge a system that thus far hadn’t seen her, or pretended not to see her as black, because of the social position she occupies and also due to the fact that until then she had not spoken out so forcefully against institutionalized racism in our society.
The conforming, subservient black who believes in meritocracy and in social justice of the fascists is always well accepted. Especially because he knows his place. He will not want to bother anyone. But the libertarian, contesting black with personality, is always a problem. He or she is controversial, problematic, wants to be treated with respect, wants the same rights, no longer wants to stay in the oblivion of the senzala (slave quarters) and oppression. The racist freaks out! Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” is behind us. The American thought she was white and when they discovered that she is hasn’t ceased being a successful black woman, they were disappointed. Maybe now I understand why our Pelé doesn’t let go of his social “White face”. He is the king of futebol and if they discover that he is black, his crown can be passed on to another head. After all, in the land of fascist, not everyone can be king. But anyone is crowned, since they think and act like one.
Long live the resistance!
Source: Brasil 247