How do I know this? Because some brilliant black women told me so!
It’s been nearly two and a half years since Queen Bey dropped her self titled masterpiece. Waiting for the release of her sixth studio album has felt like an eternity. Particularly because every 5 minutes the media was pre-empting its arrival. However on Saturday the BeyHive was rewarded with a masterpiece of an hour-long HBO special, visual album jam packed with pro-black women themes at every corner. From extracts of Malcolm X’s speech to cameos from powerful black women such as Serena Williams, Zendaya, and Amandla Stenberg to powerful shots of mothers of victims of police brutality holding portraits of their passed sons. Not to mention Beyoncé herself presenting as a fierce, proud woman of colour. The impact of the masterpiece that is LEMONADE’s will reach far beyond the night of its release and hopefully into the souls of women of colour everywhere.
On Saturday and into Sunday Social media was ablaze with commentary about the special, Queen Bey herself and the allegations of cheating (as if that were the most important message to be taken from the special). I had yet to see the special but I eagerly awaited my turn to see the amazing visual spectacle that was LEMONADE. I logged onto facebook and there was a brilliant status from Paige- Plus Model .
“(Some) White women be talking about lemonade like this album was for them…
Lemonade isn’t for you. This Black Love Story Shrouded in oppression and black history and black female empowerment isn’t for you!
This tale of Looking after our brothers & sisters and taking back our title of “Angry Black Woman” isn’t for you.
This empowering message of being your own boss but also allowing you the most downtrodden and under protected women in society to be sensitive and hurt and show emotion without holding pride before your feelings, isn’t something you can relate to.
This black female supremacy isn’t for you…
It isn’t about you so stop trying to shine on our Black Girl Magic.
#MicDrop ✊🏾🎤. “
What shocked me beyond belief about this status was the number of white people who took issue with this statement! I’m not gonna lie, I wasn’t sure exactly what was appropriate for me to say and take from the brilliance that was LEMONADE, but instead of assuming I just asked, simple.Not only that but Paige and a host of other brilliant people were on hand to answer, not that it was their job to educate me but I was most appreciative of the input because I simply didn’t know.
I’m all for analytical comments and positive questions to facilitate learning but when a Black Woman or Person of Colour tells you about their experience or how something makes them feel, then why would you feel the need to challenge it, question it, or worse call it racist??
Now, don’t get me wrong,of course white people are allowed to have opinions and share them (or lord knows I wouldn’t have this blog), but to attempt to interpret a film and album that was made for and meant to empower black women and undermine their opinions on it, simply makes no sense.
We need to understand this: LEMONADE was not made for white people. It’s not about white people. Therefore we do not have the right to claim it, interpret it and decide what it means. Of course we are welcome to enjoy the film , love the album and praise the masterful piece of artistry that Queen Bey has gifted the world with, but we can’t act like it’s for us.Because it simply just isn’t. Our perspectives on LEMONADE as white people are unimportant, unrequested and unasked-for. It is the message that settles within the black community is what really matters.
It’s baffling that white people are offended and bothered by this. Does it not strike you with a sense of irony that there are people losing their shit because they feel excluded? This shouldn’t offend us either; in a world conducted and directed by seemingly all things white, where culture and media is white washed, I’m sure we can survive a project not being directed towards us. Of course this message can be confusing and frustrating but I assure you that every time a white person decides or proclaims the message of LEMONADE, it’s a slap in the face to black women everywhere. How do I know? Because Women of Colour have spoken and we should listen! Quite simply because they know better than we do. We will never know the stigma, the struggle, the oppression, the pride, the strength or the experience of Black Women. We simply just can’t, equally saying that white people are being discriminated against makes zero sense. We are the dominant culture, we are everywhere. The majority of media, music and art is about us, for us and by us, LEMONADE couldn’t possibly be discriminatory.
As Malcolm X stated in a 1962 speech (which Beyoncé sampled in the film), “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.” To interpret LEMONADE in place of black women is to disrespect and neglect the voices of black women.
This idea carries over to a reality in our society: white allies speaking over the black community. Far too many times I have witnessed a fellow white person speak above the black community on issues that they have no business speaking about. If you’re white like me, take a deep breath. I know it’s difficult to be told that not everything is about you, but you have to understand this concept. As a white ally of the Black Lives Matter movement, I have learned that I cannot speak over the black community on black issues. I have no idea what it’s like to experience institutionalised racism and constant discrimination daily and simultaneously. But rather than speak for black people, my duty as a white ally is to amplify the voices of the black community to help their messages about their struggles and experiences be heard. To use my position of white privilege to help those around me rather than to drown them out.
Though I was excited for the special and waiting for the new album has felt like decades, of course it’s going to be tough not to have an opinion. With that being said, though, I know that LEMONADE was not made for me. I am simply a passenger on this journey of black empowerment, and black women are at the head of the pack. This doesn’t feel threatening to me, nor should it feel threatening to any other white person. Black power is not a threat to me; white power and black power are not mutually exclusive. So I won’t try to act like I know of the struggles exhibited in LEMONADE, nor will I try to speak for black women on those issues. It is imperative for white people to comprehend that we cannot pretend to fully understand or declare the message of LEMONADE. Even so, I will still enjoy the amazingly diverse track list and accompanying visuals that Beyoncé has arranged. Because as a white person, when Beyoncé gives you LEMONADE, you sit back and watch black women take over the world, and what a beautiful world it could be, if we would just sit quietly for a moment.