Black women’s bodies are scary.
That’s the lesson we learned this Super Bowl Sunday.
Turn off the TV! This is too political for family entertainment!
When did we become so squeamish in this country? Can’t we all just sit back and enjoy seductive women gyrating in unison anymore?
I guess not. Not if they’re black.
Sleek female bodies in tight leather outfits displaying every curve of their anatomy – if their skin is black and their hair is Afro-ed and their fists are briefly in the air, it’s way too scary for white male libidos.
And that’s really the problem here.
Who was this performance supposed to be for? Fifty years of Super Bowl logic would suggest the target demographic was light skinned, heterosexual and possessing a penis. But these women had something to say – maybe. They had a message beyond “Look at me! I’m hot!”
That’s what the Super Bowl is, really. Some people say they watch it only for the commercials, but that’s all there is. It’s all a big advertisement for the American way of life.
Sit back, drink beer, eat pizza, watch an essentially meaningless contest and – whatever you do – don’t think about the way things really are. Don’t think about the problems we have and how we might fix them. Stay asleep. Watch the game and stay fast asleep.
And please don’t tell me this has nothing to do with race. If they were white girls with a message about world hunger, the outrage would be demonstrably more muted. If there’d be any outrage at all.
No. This was a direct assault on our tacit consent to be colorblind in all things. As a society we’ve silently agreed to refrain from mentioning anything about race in public.
Why are you even bringing up the fact that those dancers were black, someone is bound to ask.
My answer: because I have eyes.
Denying the pigment of their skin does no one any favors. And talking about it doesn’t denigrate them in any way. In fact, it acknowledges a key component of their being.
Or at least that’s what the 24-hour news cycle has made of it. Did Queen B really intend her routine to be taken as such a revolutionary display of black power? It’s hard to say.
In the actual performance, there is nothing much that is overtly political. Vaguely martial outfits? Dancing in an X-formation? A raised fist? Maybe.
The only somewhat rebellious moment occurred after they had already left the field. A few dancers held a sign offstage asking for justice for Mario Woods – a black San Francisco man gunned down by police. If you blinked, you missed it.
But the same cannot be said of the recently released music video for the song. It contains many images of black oppression from police brutality to the slow response to Hurricane Katrina. However, if you never saw the video, would you make that connection?
I didn’t. It went right over my head.
To be fair, I’d had a few.
It wasn’t until the next day that I read about the media’s hyperventilating all over it. Viewers had to actively search out the video to find any revolutionary content. Maybe that was Bey’s intent. Maybe not.
Either way, I find it hard to believe that most people’s immediate reaction was the same as that of the pundits.
At first, it was only a vocal minority that made a big deal about it. Then it snowballed into the center of our public discourse. I’m not sure why it’s gained such purchase. Maybe it’s because the halftime show always elicits strong emotions. Maybe it’s because it’s an election year. But without a doubt, a lot of folks’ white fragility is showing.
People of color are often stereotyped as having a thin skin about these issues. If black or brown folks bring it up, they’re criticized as “playing the race card.” But this situation shows how reactionary we, white people, really are.
No one decried Coldplay for starting the show with “Viva la Vida” – a song featuring the lyric, “When I Ruled the World.” People of color aren’t theorizing that the song by the whiter-than-white Chris Martin is really a Caucasian lament about the loss of white power.
“I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own”
Why? Because it would be just as ridiculous! Black folks have more important things to worry about – like the very things that white people are mad at Beyoncé for bringing up!