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A reluctantly written note to white people: “Formation” isn’t about us. You don’t have to get it.

I wasn’t going to say something, but I’ve seen enough things being Said that I kind of had to say something, which I hate, because it puts me in the category of people who have said stuff. But here goes, and I’m sorry.

White people writing analyses and critiques of “Formation”: “Formation” isn’t about us, for us, or at us. At all.

It isn’t an attempt to educate us about black culture, or what it means to be a black woman, or what it means to be a black woman in the South, or #BlackGirlMagic. It’s not a cry for cross-racial unity. “Formation” is an unapologetic celebration of something that isn’t ours, for the black women who saw it for the first time and instantly (or even gradually) found themselves and reveled in it.

It isn’t about us. (Yeah, that’s what that feels like.)

It is great to love it, feel moved by it, and even be changed by it. But when it comes to talking about it, what we should be doing is listening. Not trying to fit it into the context of our own lives, and not judging things that we don’t understand because they haven’t been tailored especially for us. Actively listening. Seeking to listen. So I’m going to stop talking now, WPWAACOF. Join me.


Danielle C. Belton at The Root: Beyoncé Drops ‘Formation’ for the People, the Black People

Evette Dion at Bustle: Beyonce’s “Formation” Video Is A Call To Arms For Black Women

Margaret E. Jacobsen at Romper: Beyonce’s “Formation” Lyrics Are A Reminder Of My Own #BlackGirlMagic

Aliya S. King at Essence: Beyonce and the ‘Formation’ of Black Girl Feminism (When the Hot Sauce Isn’t Enough)

Tiffany Lee at Black Girl Dangerous: If You Ain’t Got In-“Formation”

Nicki McGloster at Elite Daily: Beyoncé’s ‘Formation’ Spells Out What It Means To Be A Black Feminist

Jenee Osterheldt at the Kansas City Star: Super Bowl’s biggest winner? Beyoncé’s celebration of blackness

Red Clay Scholar: Getting in Line: Working Through Beyonce’s “Formation”

Dr. Zandria F. Robinson at New South Negress: We Slay, Part 1

And on the Daily Show, Jessica Williams verbally dismembers critics of Beyonce’s spectacular Super Bowl halftime performance, which was rife with historical significance and political messaging and thus deemed too scandalous for the delicate sensibilities of middle America, who apparently can’t handle being reminded that black lives matter.

16 thoughts on A reluctantly written note to white people: “Formation” isn’t about us. You don’t have to get it.

  1. I never really understand this attitude of like… only certain people get to talk about certain things. It seems to only be more reductive: everything about you comes down to what you were arbitrarily born as. I understand it’s hard to understand an experience you’ve never had, but that is different from saying “if you haven’t had this experience then you can’t talk about anything pertaining to it.”

    1. There’s some privilege talking there, and it’s because “what you were arbitrarily born as” has a tremendous effect on your life and the way you’re able to occupy space in the world. All other things being equal, a white voice is pretty much always going to be heard over a black voice — even when talking about issues specific and unique to black women’s lives. So just because you have every right to express your opinion, that doesn’t mean it comes without consequence. The thing to do is ask yourself whether your voice is going to drown out the voice of, for instance, a black woman who has actual lived experience and understanding of the matter under discussion, and if the answer is yes, don’t say anything. It’s not a matter of censorship, it’s a matter of self-control, and not expressing your opinion in a situation where it would have a negative impact isn’t going to kill you.

      That’s basically why I was so reluctant to write this post in the first place — I didn’t want to be just another white voice adding to the noise and distracting from the real discussion. But I was seeing people screwing up, and I have a platform, so I wanted to correct the people creating the noise and boost the signals of women who might be getting talked over. And the fact that we’re having this discussion right now means that I’ve kind of failed. We can take this discussion to spillover if absolutely, life-or-death, world-shakingly necessary, but it would be best if it could just die here.

  2. I’m hoping that the rush on Red Lobsters will overwhelmingly convince white racists of the power of black consumerism, and increase black employment in all segments of the economy.

    Do not even construe this as endorsement of Darden’s ghastly labor policies and denial of paid sick days.

  3. Beyonce and I both like red lobster ( those cheddar biscuits…nom ) and both carry hot sauce in our purses. I also carry cold brew ice tea bags though so I’m one up on her. But look! I have 2 things in common with someone famous! Pretty sure that makes us best friends.#bff

  4. You know, after watching this video a few times and listening to this song more closely, I feel like OK LADIES NOW LET’S GET IN FORMATION.


    Read, please.

    Big Freedia is a force. She was used in this project, barely cited and never seen. Black, trans women have given more to popular culture than almost anyone realizes, while they continue to endure inconceivable violence in obscurity. Sampling their style for aesthetic purposes without attaching their faces is not revolutionary. It isn’t even original.

    As other queer, southern forces have pointed out this week, Hurricane Katrina is not a sexy backdrop. It was a moment in which this country watched a city of poor Black people drown and stood idly by. It was—eerily like the halftime show—a demonstration of our nation’s capacity for mistaking passive consumption of Black struggle with active participation in Black struggle.

    1. This article is classic classic CLASSIC



      This mansplaining is so classic it is inspiring my own mansplaining.

      It’s so classic that I’m listening to Poker Face, which makes it ma-ma-ma-mansplaining.

      It’s also purity politics at it’s finest.

      I have actively avoided saying anything about Beyoncé’s new song and video. I don’t think they are interesting, important or deserving of my commentary. That as a Black, queer person I have, in the last week, been expected—and, at moments, obligated—to respond to them is insulting and infuriating.

      This man is so insulted and furious that people want to know what he thinks. He is so insulted and furious that he is going to tell you what he thinks.

      Straight, cis people saying “slay” falls on my ear in exactly the same way as white people saying “trill” and “fleek.”

      Straight people sound different from queer people. That’s how you know they are the Slang Appropriating Enemy.

      Bill Gates isn’t just a rich white man. He is one of free market capitalism’s most powerful advocates. His foundation has supported multiple projects that undermine unions, affordable education and public schools. His wealth has worked to privatize and gentrify Black communities across this country. Lyrically lauding his achievements is at best thoughtless, at worst sinister.

      Beyonce is Satan because she did not condemn Bill Gates, but in fact, admitted that he is powerful and rich. Being powerful and rich is evil. In fact, Beyonce, being powerful and rich herself, is evil. We’ll get there later.

      The appropriation of queer and trans genius by straight, cis people is real. As a queer Black person I feel betrayed by straight, cis, Black people who are celebrating this video instead of defending queer art and culture from corporate ravaging.

      I am lumping in queer and trans communities and achievements because I am queer, but not trans. I have been personally victimized by black people enjoying Beyonce’s music video.

      Backup dancers in pseudo Black Panthar garb rang as a flippant, even exploitative play on dated Black power movements. It was an insult to our ancestors, and an inability to recognize the current face of Black power.

      You have insulted my ancestry.

      The racist mayor of Chicago has yet to resign. The people of Flint continue to pay for poisoned water, and face a growingly unchecked police state. The officer who killed Quintonio Legreir is suing his estate for emotional distress. Every new think piece about a music video—including this one—deflect energy and attention away from the demanding work of abolition, adding to our complacency with the structures bearing down on us.

      Other things are more important than a silly music video with silly ladies in it doing silly dances which they stole anyway.

  6. Misogyny and racism are real. Beyoncé faces these things. She’ll be okay. She has private security, personal transportation and a ton of money. She doesn’t need us to defend her. But we need to defend each other.

    Black women in entertainment do not deserve support because they have money. Meanwhile I am being personally betrayed every time you watch a music video. You need to defend me.

    Celebration and distraction are not the same thing. Taking time to step back from our difficult realities to rejoice, heal and love together is crucial. Investing in corporate fantasies and confusing them with our movements is detrimental.

    Money is evil, and if you like money, you are evil.

    The image of backup dancers holding a sign for Mario Woods was made possible because Black Lives Matter activists ran onto the field and handed the sign to them. The closest thing to an actual solidarity statement happened because local organizers broke through the spectacle of the Super Bowl, not Beyoncé.

    Beyonce is to be blamed for everything wrong with her art. Beyonce is not to be credited with any positive effects of her art.

    Non-Black people cheering the corporatizing of Black power may not understand the urgency of the moment we are in, the need to stay vigilant against the diluting of our movement, and the implications for Black communities if our efforts are overtaken.

    Because I am a man, this is about race, and I am ignoring gender. I am especially ignoring misogynoir.

    There is a long history of Black celebrities advocating for Black movements. Eartha Kitt, Muhammad Ali, Lena Horne are folks we think of first as athletes and movie stars, yet who used their celebrity to publicly defy the state and advocate for Black communities, at times at great personal risk, and to the detriment of their careers. Do not compare them to Beyoncé basking in the publicity of a halftime show.

    Muhammad Ali hates Beyonce

    Beyonce appeared in a straight-up racist video about a week before ‘Formation’ came out. Yes, anti-Blackness is a real issue in Desi communities. So is orientalism in Black communities. Complex though the interplay, the outcome is the irresponsible treatment of South Asian culture and people. There is nothing defensible about that, and nothing new.

    Beyonce is not even perfect and therefore she is actually just trash.

    That’s actually pretty much the rest of it. Beyonce didn’t burn down the stadium so she’s trash. Beyonce isn’t BDSing Israel so she’s trash:

    Beyoncé is not an actual artist.

    Beyoncé is a logo. Beyoncé is a commodity. Beyoncé is a production. Beyoncé is a distraction. Beyoncé is a ruse. Beyoncé does not actually exist.

    What-the-fuck-ever dude

  7. Is this a good place to grump the fuck out over the shitty video she did with Coldplay pre-Super Bowl or should I take it to Spillover?

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