Apparently, loving your culture and yourself is still something only white people can do in this country without being perceived as a threat. Exhibits B & C of this continuing trend of making white privileged-based thinking uncomfortable occurred this weekend in the forms of Beyoncé & Cam Newton. Both received insane amounts of criticism from many non-people of color for, quite honestly, embracing their blackness. Mrs. Carter, a day after releasing a powerfully crafted socially-charged visual to her song, “Formation”, rocked the Super Bowl with an outfit paying homage to Michael Jackson’s Super Bowl performance, with background dancers wearing uniforms to honor the 50th anniversary of the Black Panthers (which were founded in Oakland, not far from where the Super Bowl was held). Before and after the game, NFL MVP Cam Newton was criticized about everything from his gold shoes that we wore during warm-ups donning the letters “MVP”, to being visibly upset about losing the Super Bowl, and walking off of the podium after two minutes and thirty-one seconds of answering the same question (and, as we discovered the next day, attempting to ignore heckles from a Broncos defensive player less than three feet away from him).
If you are/were offended by Cam Newton’s bravado or Beyoncé’s song, video, or performance, allow me to explain a few things to you: Expectations of a culture that you only understand through appropriations and assumptions aren’t that culture’s fault or responsibility. Also, our blackness isn’t a thermostat you can adjust to your comfort level, contrary to popular belief. We get it: the NFL’s current MVP being proud in who he is or a musical icon that you enjoyed listening to but now find horror in using her power to bring attention to something other than how to “surfboart” ruffles the collective feathers of white privileged-based thinking. On behalf of every black person, including the two black friends you may have, trust me when I say that from the bottom of our collective hearts, we don’t give a shit. The same individuals who remained silent about Johnny Manziel allegedly hitting his ex so hard that he punctured her eardrum or those who look the other way as Donald Trump alienates and denigrates everyone including those who support him for speaking his mind (read: saying the racist shit they don’t have the balls to) suddenly have the audacity to get their panties in a bunch about background dancers dressed like Black Panthers (which, by the way, were a community activist group, NOT a racist group as many have incorrectly stated) or a quarterback who wears his emotions on his sleeve the same way that Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Kirk “You Like That!!” Cousins and countless others do week in and week out? It amuses and baffles me that such a culture can romanticize Katniss Everdean yet crucify activist Deray Davis while (purposely) remaining oblivious to the fact that they are fighting THE SAME battle. I find it disheartening that in the lie we call “post-racial America”, people still attempt to calibrate another one’s pride in themselves and their culture.
What is most flabbergasting to me about this entire situation is the one thing no one has mentioned yet: the disgustingly amazing unmitigated gall and arrogance of white privilege and white supremacy. A well-thought out and executed tribute to honor the Black Panthers near the city they were founded combined with a new age “Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud” anthem has been called racist (newsflash: black people cannot be racist, EVER), divisive, and a laundry list of other bullshit. Why is it that ANYTIME a black person celebrates their culture, it is deemed threatening? (That’s a rhetorical question, by the way). (White) people have demanded an apology, accused Beyonce of being racist while falsely recalling the history of the Black Panthers, and in some cases, have gone as far as boycotting her music and new video. In the case of Beyoncé, you actually have white people telling black people how to celebrate black heritage DURING BLACK HISTORY MONTH. Let the ridiculousness marinate for a second on that.
For the last 400 plus years, African-Americans have been forcefully and indirectly told how we are supposed to act in order for other Americans to feel comfortable with their lives. We have been told how we should speak, what to speak about, and which parts of our culture we could share with the country that we have played a long and strong role in building. Well, those days have been gone for quite some time now, and it is apparent that many have an issue with it. But here’s the thing: Black people don’t give a fuck anymore. We are tired of asking for privileges others demand. We are no longer going to mask the pride in ourselves many thought slave owners beat out of us centuries ago, just to make you feel comfortable. To paraphrase Cam Newton, we will NOT back down, bend, or break to fit into the mold you want us to fit in. We are black. We are proud. And we don’t give a shit if you’re comfortable with it or not.
Food for thought: If Beyoncé was enough to frighten some out of their confederate flag underwear, I wonder how they’ll react when Kendrick Lamar performs at these upcoming Grammys…