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Beyoncé Brought Undeniable Blackness To Your SuperBowl Party This Year

There is always predictable commotion surrounding the release of a Beyonce music video. Whether it’s claims of hypersexualization, cultural appropriation, eurocentric beauty aspirations, or capitalistic desires, the scrutiny encompassing Bey’s artistic evolution is harsh at best–and inhumane at worst. Her latest surprise single “Formation,” which was accompanied by remarkably stunning and politically progressive visuals, wasn’t exempt from aforementioned criticism. But the response to it has been overwhelmingly positive: many lauded her brazen references to black culture. Her lyrical adoration for afros, ‘negro nose (s) with Jackson 5 nostrils,’ hot sauce, and her southern heritage was as refreshing as the accompanying images in “Formation.” From strategically having the video take place in New Orleans to writhing on top of a drowning police car (underscoring the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina) to letting her daughter Blue Ivy bask in all of her natural hair glory to displaying her advocacy for the Black Lives Matter movement (her hubby Jay Z donated 1.5 million dollars to BLM via his streaming service Tidal just a few days ago), Bey’s blackness has never been as front and center the way it was in “Formation.” She even performed the song at last night’s Super Bowl 50.

Alongside other global superstars such as Bruno Mars and Coldplay, Beyonce not only brought the heat during the halftime show but she damn near lit her musical counterparts on fire. In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Black Panthers, she paid homage during her set by having her dancers dress like them (down to the afros and berets) and even threw in a black pride salute for good measure. While she has never been one to shy away from lyrically referencing her roots, the fact that she does it so unapologetically on “Formation”(which has manifested itself into a world tour a day after its release) is a rare and welcome occurrence. And as a black woman, I believe this moment was long overdue.

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In a vast sea of pop stars, the majority of them rely on whiteness as an automatic default for humanity and ultimately their selling point. Taylor Swift can preoccupy her time perfecting her pout for the white male gaze–and sell millions of records while doing it–because she is nonthreatening, frail, mediocre, and well, white. Sam Smith lists black women as some of the biggest influences in his career and uses gospel choirs in his top-charting singles yet insists that he didn’t know racism existed until this year. Adele–albeit immensely talented–can sing the hell out of heartbreak record after record and never be questioned for her lyrical redundancy or why other black soul singers who are just as talented as she is aren’t receiving their rightful recognition. Nor do white pop stars experience systemic racism, police brutality, or any real formidable social injustice. This is why “Formation” is such a necessary commentary on a country built on the backs of black women. Because of our history, we are inherently politicized individuals. For far too long, we have been commodified, abused, exploited, fetishized, dissected, mocked, imitated, and ultimately erased. This is why we need more of an outspoken and woke Beyonce–our mainstream livelihood depends on it.

– Candace McDuffie