Oh, Beyoncé, do we need to talk.
Most of my senior year of high school was spent listening to “***Flawless” on repeat and wondering why I was even bothering doing my calculus homework if it wasn’t going to make me any closer to becoming you, Beyoncé.
As a young woman of color, I have admired you for about as long as I’ve known what pop culture is. Seeing you eradicate the competition and spill your soul onstage over and over again in a sea of white has always reminded me of the power that comes with embracing one’s identity in its entirety; I will always remember the moment “feminist” flashed on-screen behind you at the 2014 VMAs as one of the moments I realized just how empowering my womanhood can be. And all of this is simply as a Desi onlooker — I can only imagine what you mean to my Black sisters in particular.
But lately, Queen Bey, we’ve had some problems. It started with the Coldplay video that dropped last week. Cultural appropriation and fetishization was an amateur move, B. That said, you partly redeemed yourself when you spread #BlackGirlMagic all over 114.4 million TV screens with your outrageously badass “Formation” performance at the Super Bowl halftime show.
But not even 48 hours later, I heard rumors about your show in Tel Aviv, Israel, and now I’m disappointed all over again.
Of course, I have known for a while that you’re far from perfect. As much as you empower women like me, you also undeniably empower neoliberals as a symbol of one of capitalism’s greatest successes, and your image has been commodified to nearly perfection.
However, to say that you’ve been anything less than a symbol of what can be for a number of women, specifically women of color, and even more specifically, Black women, lacks nuance and demeans an entire field of study that, as Noura Erakat says, has managed to both “critique and celebrate” you.
Attacks on your character rather than your rumored decision are unproductive. My fellow fans and I recognize that neglecting to separate our criticism of your decision from your character on the whole is disrespectful to many of our closest allies.
Just as you have legitimized womanhood, by performing in this case, you would be legitimizing a power structure that subjugates the masses simply for existing.
We understand that calling you a bitch is the opposite of helpful and demeans all women, even as we need only look at collegiate divestment movements and examples like Black Lives Matter or Linda Sarsour to see how women often outnumber men in the frontlines of organizing.
We know that, beyond the simple rules of basic human decency, calling you the n-word creates a division between us and our Black allies and invalidates the solidarity and mutual empowerment Palestinian Liberation and Black Lives Matter activists gain from each other through movements like Ferguson 2 Palestine and the like.
But I say all of this not to excuse you, if these rumors are in fact true. Instead, I recognize that we perhaps haven’t been vocal enough in our awareness efforts, and want to give you the chance to save face and learn a thing or two about human rights and the causes near and dear to some of your most avid fans.
I know Jennifer Lopez and Bruce Springsteen might have you thinking that it’s trendy to play in Israel right now, but you know what else is trendy? The right to self-determination. I urge you to look at examples of Lauryn Hill, Pink Floyd, Santana, Annie Lennox, Elvis Costello and even Bono, who have refused to perform in Israel, because they recognize how wrong it is to arbitrarily kill civilians and how its policies mirror those of an apartheid state.
They’re aware of Israel’s desperate attempts to detract from the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement by whitewashing the oppression of an entire people.
I hope you’ll now lend your amplifying powers to elevate the right to basic human dignity too.
You see Bey, you’re an icon — but you still live in the same world as the rest of us. And it’s an ugly world — and that makes the broader implications of all of your actions even more important.
As an artist, I imagine it’s easy to think that your music is sometimes just for entertainment purposes — but being a cultural icon gives you enormous political power, too, and you don’t get to pick and choose when your work is going to be received as a political statement.
Though you may not actively, knowingly support genocide, playing a concert in Tel Aviv undeniably would allow those who are carrying it out to use your image and as a poster child for their cause.
I know performing is second nature to you, your performances aren’t in a separate sphere or in a vacuum. Just as you have legitimized womanhood, by performing in this case, you would be legitimizing a power structure that subjugates the masses simply for existing.
I know that it can be hard to do the right thing in the face of propaganda. Especially when so many of our politicians have fallen victim to it, I can understand any confusion you might have. But I have faith in you Queen Bey — after all, I know you once “sneezed on the beat and the beat got sicker,” so I hope you’ll now lend your amplifying powers to elevate the right to basic human dignity, too. Maybe you’re not “***Flawless,” but I ask that you recognize this is one “Partition” that does in fact need to come down.
Written by Sumaia Masoom.
Image: NY Post Twitter