In commemorating a milestone birthday gifted to me earlier this year, my most elaborate gifts were to the person I was five years ago. The girl who wore make-up, the girl who loved Beyonce. The current me, a black nationalist, received no gifts of the pan africanist sort, or ones that scratched her itch of intellectual curiosity. I say this not be ungrateful, but to note that transitions towards blackness are rarely embraced verbally, but even more seldom in action.
The old me received two enviable seats to watch Beyonce and Jay Z perform together on the second leg of their On The Run Tour. The evening proved a battle with traffic and the weather, namely a two hour stand off where me, my friend, and over 82,000 others sought refuge as we waiting out the storm.
Then Bey and Jay—labeled “The Queen and The Gangster” took the stage, their hands as espoused just as much to one another as to the bounds of white supremacy. Though physically black, their union illustrates black love as it manifests behind the veil of the white gaze. Black bodies obscured by wealth and fame so that they are actually no longer even human–brown shells of fantasy used to birth and support consumers who seek a seat at the table, or better yet center stage on the auction block called the Black A-list.
Beyonce and Jay Z, caricatures of blackness, market this image to victims of white supremacy as entertainment. The stereotypes, the noose around our neck, becomes what makes us smile as we are asphyxiated to the likings of our oppressors.
Watching the concert, I could not help but not feel as though The Carters have the joint tour that Bobby and Whitney should have had over two decades ago. Whitney and Bobby of course were not out of this world in the way that Jay and Bey are—it was just Whitney who catapulted to the lonely place at the bottom of a white supremacist mountaintop—a mountaintop that is nothing more than a veiled cliff. Bobby and Whitney illustrated the imbalance white supremacy puts on black love—that the black woman is purposely allowed to walk in doors for the sheer purpose of those same doors slamming in the face of the black men that follow.
Reality series Being Bobby Brown was a means for the same system that persistently sets the black family up for failure, to benefit— a means for white supremacists to sell umbrellas in the storm they created. Contrarily, for Jay and Bey, the profit for the 10+ years of their relationship is togetherness—their unity is good for their brand in the same way that discordance was the key to Bobby and Whitney’s brand.
So as beautiful as Beyonce sang, as gorgeous as she looked (minus the inauthentic hair and color), and as lovely as it is to see a black man love a black woman and vice versa, I cannot help but feel as if we as a collective were being played—literally. That our hopes and dreams of overcoming and arriving, have been sold to our collective as albums, and concert tickets.
That both the black and love were ejected from “black love,” making their performance
lack love like a literal lash from the past. I cant help but feel, as I swayed in the stands, and sang along to the soundtrack of my enslaved past, that I willingly tied myself to a tree and danced to the sound of my tearing skin.
My affinity for Beyonce the artist has largely been diluted. I can no longer be passive in her terroristic standpoint. She is what this world wants me to be—jezebel-like with faux blonde hair— a black woman who leads black women into the burning house of white feminism and tells them that their charred body is flawless. Simply put, I cannot love a figure who exists to ensure my collective self-hate.
Nevertheless, reflecting on the Beyonce concert affords me a new perspective in assessing the tour’s title. A black man and woman as “on the run” is literally a personification of what it means to be black anywhere on the globe. As beings of black form, we remain on the run from various manifestations of white supremacy. In considering Beyoncé and Jay-Z respectively, the black body remains on the run from a media who thrives in our subjugation and separation of self.
At the height of their fame, Bey and Jay function to illustrate what we as a people should wish to be—highly paid employees of our oppressors. To all those who protest my assertions, despite what the media perpetuates, Jay Z and Beyoncé are manufactured and employed by the white media. Jay and Bey would not only fail to exist in a pro-black, or black centered society—they would serve no purpose. Realizing this is only enabled in running away from the aesthetic and ideology afforded by this concert, and toward the freedom not mentioned in “his” story or amidst his territory.
A week or so after the concert, a melanated colleague approached me with a query manufactured by our shared oppressors. His query was in reference to Beyoncé’s recent pairing with Vogue magazine. Specifically, Beyoncé’s decision to ditch hair extensions and makeup was to him revolutionary and deserving of praise. To him Bey was pushing back against a standard. To me however, Beyonce provides a diverse way to reinforce a standard she helped to create. It is also worth mentioning that Bey’s hair remains its unnatural hue, her espousal to white supremacy itemized in the wedding band of blonde locs. His commentary, alongside the thousands of spell bound fans who viewed Beyoncé worldwide on her most recent On The Run II tour, expose a reality perhaps I was reluctant to believe. A reality that so many of the black collective, from various walks of life, are waiting on a fair-skinned, blonde-haired black Woman to save the black collective from an illness she continues to spread in song, action, and image. Yonce though, whether on the cover of Vogue, or headlining a sold out tour, not only reflects what the black collective needs saving from, but she who also needs saving from a suffocating caricature revered for its conspicuous ability to keep the black collective “crazy in love” with a melanated representative of white supremacy.