This is difficult to write and I’m sure it will be to read, but I hope that doesn’t scare you. We should never shy away from the uncomfortable—this very principle has allowed our nation to evolve beyond unspeakable barriers. Before drafting this article, I Googled writing an article about Beyoncé. The sixth organic search result was the first to catch my eye, and for good reason: “Dear White People Who Write Things” (VSB). The specific article offered two steps of advice for White people attempting to write about Beyoncé’s latest album, Lemonade: 1) Don’t and 2) Wait. The article ends with a lightly sardonic vignette of White people: “If you happen to be a White person who writes things and you happen to be reading this, I’m flattered that you spent part of your Sunday reading this. Thank you! Now back the f___ away from your screen, close your laptop, go to brunch, take a walk with some friends, and spend the rest of the day watching the NBA playoffs and Game of Thrones.” Dude, only three of those four things are true.
On the topic of barriers, at what point should shaming stop? I only just recently returned to Twitter after a five-year hiatus, and @KanyeWest is as ornery as ever: “To Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, New York Times, and any other White publications. Please do not comment on Black music anymore” (2/15/2016). I didn’t realize that in today’s world, freedom of speech has its limitations. I didn’t get that wake-up call, but it’s probably a good thing I’m not analyzing Beyoncé’s music.
I’ll tell you something that is true: I loved Destiny’s Child when I was growing up. I believed their songs, like “Survivor” and “Bootylicious,” were as much about me as any other 10-year-old girl believed, whether growing up in the mountains of New Hampshire or the warm plains of Texas. Those songs made me feel strong and feminine, even if “bootylicious” went on to take an official definition that adds to the sexualization of women.
Another thing that’s true: I have always had a girl crush on Beyoncé. What’s not to like? She’s beautiful, intelligent, talented, and empowering. Beyoncé’s ability to empower is limited, in my eyes, by her unapologetic message: strong Black woman. There is nothing wrong with that, but what about the limitless possibilities that come with embodying strong women? If music is supposed to be a universal language, why are we limiting music by assigning it ethnic classifications?