During Super Bowl 50, the singer Beyoncé carried out a performance which featured Black Panther Party imagery. It was done in the context of an entire song criticizing much of the African American history in the United States. Artistically, it contained imagery of revolution by dancing in an X formation spoke of us of Malcolm X and the Black Pride movement. The message she was conveying could be summed up as, “unapologetically Black,” as one commentator put it. This performance comes as an act in support of Black Lives Matter.
However, I find some aspects of it very troubling, and anti-revolutionary. Her depiction of the Black Panthers was frankly insulting. As her dancers performed in Black Panther inspired attire, the attire itself was entirely sexist reactionary. They sent a very opposite message to what The Panthers stood for. It is not radical, nor revolutionary to combine Black Power imagery with thigh high stockings and tiny hot shorts. These are aspects of a commercialized, corporate product which exists entirely to sell beauty products to women. They exist entirely within a system of patriarchal sexualisation with the intent of reducing women to sex objects. This is not revolutionary.
Beyoncé has been a stalwart supporter of liberal sexist beauty oppression. She has been the spokes model for several beauty products, including L’Oréal, a supporter of Israeli apartheid. Her entire crafted public image is one of glamour, liberal so-called feminism, first world excessive consumption, and commercialization of female sexuality. She is wholly dependent upon theft value from workers, any of whom Africans who working the most appalling conditions. She has no revolutionary intent with her work at all. I’m sure she opposes the killings of young Blacks in America, but she is wholly a supporter and economically dependent upon the very system which perpetuates it. Without it, she loses her privileged class position.
The original Black Panthers opposed this kind of reactionary nonsense. It is insulting to those who gave their lives to better the conditions of Blacks all across America. Liberation is not something to be sexualized and sold to the public. It is not something to be used to repair one’s image. She has been accused much in the past of being very “White.” Liberation is about smashing the old order and building a new one. It is not a marketing gimmick for people in the wealthy class to use to steal more value from its creators.
As the Black Panther Party Ten-Point Program said:
5. We want education far our people that exposes the true nature of this decadent American society. We want education that teaches us our true history and our role in the present-day society.
Beyoncé is the epitome of bourgeois decadence. She owns massive amounts of stolen value which she uses to glamorize herself and her family, lives in the greatest of luxury, and places herself economically above those whose value she steals. She glamorizes and worships capitalist accumulation and first world excess. Liberation does not come from the bourgeoisie; it comes from the truly oppressed and suffering. It is those who have nothing to lose but their chains, who will wrap them around the throats of their oppressors.