(guess ya hafta click thru to youtube now; sorry.)
From TRNN’s ‘Elections, Reparations and Beyonce: Class Politics in Black America’
Founder of BreakingBrown.com Yvette Carnell and BlackAgendaReport.com columnist Pascal Robert joined us for a rousing round table discussion of leading topics of the day. (the transcript; I’m only using the wee bit on Beyoncé)
From ‘Beyoncé Slays Black People’, by R.L. Stephens II, at orchestratedpulse.com (And yes, the website is a brand-buster, most especially black brands as propagandist ‘manufactured consent’.)
“I think parts of this video are as radical a seeding of visionary futures as the lunch counter sit-ins,” one author says. Wait a minute. The lunch counter sit-ins actually happened. They weren’t a music video, and they weren’t a cultural representation. The sit-ins shut down businesses and sometimes even whole towns, upending day-to-day realities in the fight against racial segregation. People got hurt. It’s beyond me how those insurgent events can be favorably compared with a Beyoncé song that says “Always stay gracious, best revenge is your paper.”
Yeah, not quite of the same disturbance of the Sith Force as John Carlos and Tommie Smith giving the black power salute at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, was it?
Stephens includes some illustrative quotes from Adolph Reed’s book Class Notes you may be interested in considering. He then suggests we examine Beyoncé’s work within its real-world context; he concludes that her cultural doesn’t illuminate political conditions, but instead ‘obscures them’. He must have had at least a little bit of fun demonstrating the intersection of ‘the Bey’s’ use of Katrina with her apparent Twitter Love for neoliberal Teach for America pimp DeRay McKesson, and his for her.
“7,000 teachers, most of whom were Black, lost their jobs immediately after Katrina. They filed and won a lawsuit against the government for their wrongful terminations, but that didn’t save their jobs. The neoliberal shift in New Orleans’ policy gutted not only the Black middle class as a whole, but Black teachers in particular. From 2002-2012, New Orleans has seen the Black teacher population drop by an astronomical 62%, with most of that loss coming after Katrina. At that same time, the number of white teachers has increased 3.3%.”
(See Drew Drew Franklin’s Oct. 6 ‘The Movement Lives in Ferguson; Teach For America, Black Leadership, and Disaster Capitalism’, also at orchestrated pulse.com.)
Yep, he says Beyoncés politics line up perfectly with TFA’s recruitment of often white teachers with scarcely any training to replace black teachers at a cut-rate price.
“DeRay Mckesson, the celebrity protester who rose to prominence in the wake of the Ferguson riots, is a product of Teach for America. He defends and promotes TFA’s neoliberal political machine any chance he gets. Last year, Teach for America gave him a $10,000 award for his work. With the announcement of his Baltimore mayoral campaign, DeRay is positioning himself to take Teach for America’s neoliberal vision not only to Baltimore’s schools but to every agency in the city.’
DeRay and da Bey: radikewl black militants!
Ah, and Ajamu Baraka weighed in on her act at the Stupid Bowl half-time entertainment in ‘Beyonce and the Politics of Cultural Dominance’; some snippets to consider:
“Real opposition to this white supremacist, colonialist/imperialist order is not cool, or sexy.”
I confess, I am a culturally alienated, old, disconnected 1960s and ‘70s radical trying to live and struggle for revolutionary change in a world that might have passed me by, because I cannot for the life of me understand how Beyonce’s commodified caricature of black opposition was in any way progressive. Instead what I saw was the cultural power of neoliberal capitalism to co-opt opposition, monetize it and provide some mindless entertainment all at the same time. I didn’t see opposition; I saw the imagery and symbols of authentic black radicalism grotesquely transformed into a de-politicized spectacle by gyrating, light-skinned booty-short-clad sisters.
I am told that I am being too harsh. That there were positive messages encoded into Beyonce’s performance. In their rebuke of my interpretation, my friends return to that old canard that “we got to meet the people where they are at” and take every opportunity within the domain of popular culture to push positive messages.”
He explains the sad reactionary nature of that position being part of deep cynicism and alienation of black radical politics that were assaulted so deeply in the ‘70s that they never returned. There are recent movements to bring them back globally, thankfully.
But the thrust of his essay that I find most noteworthy is this bit of the theme:
“Beyonce’s performance and her video is conservative and accommodationist.”
Well, yes, he references Obama’s abysmal drivel on the 50th anniversary of Selma, including his use of racist and manifest destiny jingoism being embraced and applauded by ‘the new Negroes of the Empire’. Yes.
“In an era where the image is dominant and meaning fluid, what is still real, concrete and observable is the operation of power. Situated and controlled by an elite that bell hooks refers to as the White Male, capitalist Patriarchy, it’s a power that exercises with devastating efficiency its ability to shape consciousness through its control of the major means of communication and cultural production. It was those white men and their representatives that placed Beyoncé on that stage at the Super Bowl. It is incredibly naive to think that anything subversive or even remotely oppositional to the interests of the capitalist oligarchy would be allowed expression on a stage that it controlled.
Beyonce’s performance and her video is as conservative and accommodationist as the demand for justice for ____, fill in the blank, after one of the defenders of the capitalist order executes one of our folks. Everyone can give lip service to the demand for racial justice or oppose the “bad apples” in the police forces that abuse their power, and most people, (except the most rabid racists) can and do get behind the idea that black lives should matter. That is why the movement has not been shut down, at least not yet!”
In a BAR radio broadcast, Glen Ford on ‘Beyoncé, James Brown and Black Movement’, Ford noted in the accompanying text:
“Only two days and one Superbowl performance after Beyoncé released her video, “Formation,” the song had registered 7 million views on YouTube. These numbers are not really all that surprising for an artist who is rated the nation’s number one celebrity, with a net worth of $250 million and the highest yearly earnings record. Beyoncé and her multi-millionaire husband Jay-Z are by no stretch of the imagination political radicals. But they do know how to ride the waves of popular culture, putting their own signatures on existing social movements. It’s good business, and they are good at it.” [snip]
“In the video, a young boy dances in front of a line of cops, as the camera flashes to graffiti demanding “Stop Shooting Us.” We immediately make the connection to 12 year-old Tamir Rice, murdered by Cleveland cops – except in the video, the police put up their hands in surrender to the dancing child. New Orleans is the motif for Beyoncé’s rhythmic fantasy, which ends with her atop a police car as it sinks beneath the flood waters.”
What? Did I miss the rest of the performance with my above clip? Seems so, sorry, but I’m sure you can find the rest on youtube) Still: Airsick bag time. But didn’t JayZ make noises about running for President a few months ago? Are they satirical, or for real? But it does go with some of the lyrics about ‘getting what she wants with her name…’
“In the video, the Beyoncé character calls herself a “Black Bill Gates in the making” and is money-hungry to the bone. This is not a radical song. What it does, is signify that Beyoncé wants to be perceived as being down with the new movement.”
I will say that after watching Janelle Monae and friends’ ‘Hell You Talmbout’ a hundred times, I sighed when a White House email came to my inbox…from Janelle asking me to be sure and register to vote, and Vote Democrat! Still, I still watch it, and love it. (more sighs) Who knows? Monday I may get one form the Queen of the Black Panthers.
(cross-posted at caucus99percent.com)