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Why Some Black Men Can’t Get in Formation With Beyoncé’s Celebration of Blackness

People are focused on the wrong things.

– By Michael Arceneaux

I am relatively immune to the irrationality and overly idiotic beliefs of White racists. So, I was not at all surprised when some White people expressed anger at Beyoncé over the video for her latest single, “Formation.” It is a song that celebrates black hair, big black noses, and invokes powerful imagery that directly challenges the racism that has spurred the unnecessary deaths of so many Black men, women, and children. It was a #PeakBlackness moment that captivated people of all races for good and bad reasons. All Beyoncé did was celebrate her community and command the respect we deserve. Of course, that would frustrate a racist who might not understand white supremacy and institutionalized racism, but is nonetheless conditioned to think anything that does not place whiteness as center is worthy of their indignation.

That is to be expected, but so is the failure of some Black men to see a Black woman revel in her autonomy.

Mere minutes after “Formation” debuted, some Black men expressed frustration under this false notion that Beyoncé is being championed for celebrating blackness in a way that the likes of Kendrick Lamar is not — particularly, Lamar’s latest album, To Pimp a Butterfly, and the track, “The Blacker The Berry.” Again, this does not surprise me either, but it stings more, because I hate to see Black men essentially repeat the mistakes of their oppressors.

Because these majorly straight Black men don’t see themselves and their point of view as center, they want to diminish its value.

First, to compare “The Blacker The Berry” to the “Formation” video is another glowing example of how in many cases, men can do the minimum and command maximum rewards — especially when they feel like a woman is getting the kudos they feel entitled to.

“The Blacker The Berry” is a celebration of a particular strain of blackness. Yes, Lamar references his dark skin, nappy hair, big nose, and big d–k and challenges white supremacy, but then he takes a pathological turn towards the end as he raps: “So why did I weep when Trayvon Martin was in the street, when gang banging make me kill a n—- blacker than me? Hypocrite!”

This is not hypocrisy. This is not Lamar’s man in the mirror moment. This is not a call to arms for the Black community. This is Black pathology and a superficial statement pretending to be something substantive.

In an interview with, Billboard, when he was asked about the recent high-profile incidents of race-motivated police brutality, Lamar said:

“I wish somebody would look in our neighborhood knowing that it’s already a situation, mentally, where it’s f–ked up. What happened to [Michael Brown] should’ve never happened. Never. But when we don’t have respect for ourselves, how do we expect them to respect us? It starts from within. Don’t start with just a rally, don’t start from looting — it starts from within.”

I rarely share the same opinion with Azealia Banks, but I absolutely agreed with her when she tweeted: “HOW DARE YOU open ur face to a white publication and tell them that we don’t respect ourselves…. Speak for your f–king self.”

I also concur with: “‘When we don’t respect ourselves how can we expect them to respect us’ dumbest sh-t I’ve ever heard a black man say.”

All Lamar did was repeat an uninformed narrative about Black on Black crime and conflate it with state sanctioned violence. Meanwhile, according to the US Department of Justice statistics, 84 percent of White people killed every year are killed by other Whites. Moreover, in 2011 there were actually more cases of Whites killing Whites than Blacks killing Blacks. And as Kerry Codett noted at the Huffington Post, “Between 1980 to 2008, a majority (53.3 percent) of gang-related murders were committed by White people, with a majority of the homicide victims being White as well.”

The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates once noted: “People tend to kill the people they live around. Black people are among the most hyper-segregated group in the country. The fact that black killers tend to kill other black people is not refutation of American racism, but the ultimate statement of American racism.”

Regardless of how you feel about Lamar’s statement, it is absolutely nothing like “Formation.” What Beyoncé did in that video was celebrate blackness in so many of its variances.

You heard the voice of the late Messy Mya; you heard Big Freedia; you saw Black people from the South of various classes; you saw Black women of assorted shapes and shades, all equally confident on camera.

This is Southern Black culture. This is Texas. This is Louisiana. This is Southern Black rap. This is a celebration of Black womanhood. This is the inclusion of Black queer culture. This is country ass people of color being their amazing country ass selves.

That video presents a fuller package of African-American pride than what Lamar offered, which is essentially make references to his nose and d–k while asking, “What about Black-on-Black crime?” This is a celebration of non-Black straight men that you rarely see from hip-hop artists — including those like him.

This video does not excuse the systemic racism that failed the Black residents of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. It does not trying to turn the light on us to examine an issue that plagues our neighborhoods. This is what actual self-respect looks like. There can be space for different perspectives, but do not put it on the same level. Do not diminish what Beyoncé did to feed your fragile male ego.

These men complaining are thinking with the wrong head. Black women deserve better than that, because it’s always Black women upholding us even when we don’t give them the respect they deserve.

When Kendrick Lamar offers something worthy of her praise, he’ll get it. Shut up in the meantime.

To channel the Queen’s epic “Formation” look, here’s your step-by-step guide to the slay.

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