Who Run the World? Cops. (A Beyoncé Commentary)

Written by Matt Wisner

Beyoncé’s song “Formation” has been viewed as controversial for potentially expressing anti-police sentiment. The “Formation” music video features Beyoncé dancing on the roof of a sinking New Orleans police car, a Black child dancing in front of an exclusively-white group of policemen, and the words “Stop shooting us” flashing on the screen. It’s irrefutable that Beyoncé is making a statement, but the debate of whether or not her sentiment is anti-police is still in question. 

She reports, “I mean, I’m an artist and I think the most powerful art is usually misunderstood. But anyone who perceives my message as anti-police is completely mistaken. I have so much admiration and respect for officers and the families of officers who sacrifice themselves to keep us safe. But let’s be clear: I am against police brutality and injustice. Those are two separate things.”

Beyoncé also received substantial criticism for her Super Bowl halftime show that was meant to be a clear and straightforward tribute to Malcolm X. NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani condemned her halftime show, saying “I thought it was really outrageous that she used it as a platform to attack police officers, the people who protect her and protect us and keep us alive.” He continued, advising Americans to seek for more “wholesome” performers to rave about.

Following the release of “Formation” and her Super Bowl appearance, police unions threatened to boycott Beyoncé. Javier Ortiz, a police officer from Miami, said, “the fact that Beyoncé used this year’s Super Bowl to divide Americans by promoting the Black Panthers and her antipolice message shows how she does not support law enforcement.” There are countless quotes like this one that demonstrate how so many people think Beyoncé was taking a blatant anti-police position. I personally don’t have any critique of Beyoncé, but I think a lot of the controversy could have been avoided if she were to have been clearer in the message she was trying to spread. The backlash almost exclusively came from misinterpretations of her art. However, there is definitely some opposition that is fueled by genuine disagreement with the Black Lives Matter movement in its entirety; one article I saw had the quote: “Beyoncé is a staunch supporter of the violent cop-hating Black Lives Matter movement,” so the motivation for speaking against Beyoncé definitely has roots in multiple different areas.

I think overall the same kind of people who are critical of Beyoncé are the same kind of people who would be critical of the Black Lives Matter movement — those who are often uneducated about the intentions of the campaigns and the movements — the kind of people who would say “well all lives matter — Black ones included in that” rather than acknowledging the fact that Black people are disproportionately targeted by the police and that something needs to be done about it. I am a huge supporter of Beyoncé — love what she’s doing and hope she doesn’t slow down anytime soon. There are a lot of other discussions that could be touched on in the realm of Beyoncé — another thing she did that I really liked was how she responded to the “Boycott Beyoncé” surge by creating merchandise like t-shirts and hoodies that said “Boycott Beyoncé” on them and sold them at her concerts. I really appreciate and admire how she has used her fame to make a statement about something she’s passionate about.

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