Beyoncé’s activist performance

Columnist Olivia Hunt

The reaction to Beyoncé’s half-time performance was not only disappointing, but it highlighted the utter ignorance that plagues this country. The controversy surrounding the performance proves — even in 2016 — people can’t fathom the importance of representation for people of color in America.

Her performance, as well as the music video for her new song “Formation”, have a profound message about the systematic oppression people of color are subjugated to.

The empowering message addresses the Black Lives Matter movement, the importance of loving yourself in a white centric society and the neglect of the government to provide aid in natural disasters which primarily affect communities of color.

In her empowering performance, she alludes to the institutional racism that plagues our country. By having her group of all African American backup dancers form an “X” to commemorate the memory of Malcolm X , she demonstrated his effort to mobilize the black community and take a stand against the injustice they’ve suffered.

In addition, their outfits mirrored the uniforms the infamous Black Panther Party wore. A Milwaukee County Sheriff was quoted asking, “Would that be acceptable if a white band came out in hoods and white sheets in the same sort of fashion? We would be appalled and outraged.” This statement doubles as both ridiculous and confusing, considering the Sheriff himself is African American.

What most people fail to understand is the Black Panthers were mostly active during the civil rights movement, a time for extreme inequality for African Americans. The original title was “ The Black Panther Party for Self Defense” against the government who was blatantly ignoring the discrimination of people of color. They were mainly known for carrying weapons and supervising police activity (but never actually using them), organizing food drives and free breakfasts and educating the people in their community.

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Contradictory, the Ku Klux Klan is a terrorist group whose aim was to harass, demoralize and kill anyone who was not white. Some people might say that the Black Panthers were a gang, but let’s face it: Gangs are organizations of people that form to protect groups of people in the face of oppression. Most importantly, the original Black Panthers are not around anymore, yet the KKK is still prevalent in many states. Malcolm X’s family was even quoted saying they loved the tribute performance and said it “Made a statement about all the senseless killing.”
Other people of color have responded to her reference of Hurricane Katrina, arguing that it isn’t her story to tell, and is invalid because she is privileged. The question remains: When someone is in a place of so much influence, is it their obligation to use their position to bring awareness and empowerment to the cause?

Beyoncé also received backlash from former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani who felt she used her performance as a platform to attack police officers. Giuliani said, “What we should be doing, in the African American community and in all communities, is build up respect for police officers and focus on the fact that when something does go wrong, we’ll work on that.”  

Why on earth would African Americans show respect for a system that shows no respect for them? Nevertheless, he had the audacity to make such a comment is yet another example of the arrogance that exists in this country.

The fact that a simple performance caused such a nation-wide (and even international) stir is evidence America continues to neglect the demand for a change which is desperately needed.

We need to dismantle the idea of superiority among races, and acknowledge that white privilege means that white people are immune to many challenges that people of color face every day.

The sooner white people accept they will never fully understand the depth of prejudice against people of color in society, the sooner we can advance as a whole. Is America ready to wake up?