Where is Kendrick’s Criticism, Black men?
Black men had a lot of memes for Beyonce’s Formation video, a lot of social media commentary, and a lot of questions around Beyonce’s supposed “ new” pro Black and explicit anti-police violence stance, but had almost no problems with Kendrick Lamar’s “Blacker the Berry” which is awash in respectability politics and essentially admonishing Black folks that until we stop killing ourselves, that we shouldn’t be hypocrites when it comes to anti-Black police violence. One naturally wonders why Beyonce is subject to such intense questioning, yet Kendrick Lamar is allowed to skate around the issue of altering his performance to ease the White consciousness, a sin which Beyonce would have more than likely have been castigated for. The answer to the reason for this line of questioning from Black men is misogynoir, which has yet to be examined deeply in pro-Black circle jerks of Black men who revere Kendrick Lamar, yet fail to engage in the reading of critical texts regarding the multiple issues of Black women who are also Pro-Black.
This positioning is not a new one, as many Black women have decried the sexism and the over-criticism of Black women last year in male-centered narratives via the hashtag #BlackPowerisforBlackmen which sought to bring to light Black women’s issues with the current and former revolutionary movements which made Black men’s problems with White Supremacy the default narrative when discussing State sponsored violence. Now, if we are going to write and discuss and dissect Beyonce’s Formation video , for any hint of a problem or shortcoming, then by all rights, we should discuss and dissect Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy performance for the erasure of the struggles of Black women with the school to prison pipeline and mass incarceration, and also the irresponsible positioning of Compton in the Sahara Desert region of Africa and not, say Soweto, South Africa, as that would speak to the erasure of Blackness from the continent of Africa and the current debate over the fate of the statues of Cecil Rhodes, ingrained in the collective White consciousness as just a part of history.
Instead, what we find is the same Black men who immediately questioned Beyonce’s pro-Black stance praising Kendrick Lamar’s performance, though riveting and on some levels bold, it was hardly a revolutionary statement, but was even edited to spare some White feelings in the live Grammy performance by the artist himself. Contrasted to Beyonce’s Super Bowl performance within which she not only refused to remove references to her love of her Negro nose, her Creole/Negro ancestry and her love of Blue Ivy’s hair in its natural state, but Beyonce and her dancers were also dressed to honor the women of the Black Panthers on the 50th anniversary of their founding, it was all basically an unapologetic Black middle finger to the feelings of White Americans who probably sat around the TV in silence.
So until Black men can create memes which question the commitment of Kendrick Lamar to the cause of Black Lives Matter due to his repeated questioning of if we really care about police violence when we’re still killing our own people, then we would be best served to not question Beyonce’s commitment because she twerks, or because she wears blonde hair, or any other trivial and essentially irrelevant conversation which has no bearing on her Pro Blackness. Pro-Blackness is not a competition, it is a state of being in response to being told that our lives and our experiences don’t matter continually. It is easy to be an armchair critic of Beyonce while being a fan of Kendrick Lamar, but let’s not pretend like he’s above reproach and can do no wrong, because we can easily pick apart Kendrick Lamar’s music if we wanted to hold him to the same standards that we seem to want to hold Beyonce to.
Kendrick Lamar can be rightfully accused of making music that the Hoteps can pretend to be conscious to, as it essentially erases Black women from the conversation of Black American oppression. Beyonce, for her part, generally centers Black women, and the lived experiences of Black women in her art, and that may be what makes these wanna be Pro-Black men so mad. Beyonce does not ask you if it is okay to center Black women, or if it is okay for her to be explicit in her statement of solidarity with Black Lives Matter without pandering to the expectations of the White gaze by couching criticism of the police in respectability politics. There are no qualifying statements in Beyonce’s Formation video, just a clear statement that Black Lives Matter. If we’re going to discuss an artist not being completely Pro-Black, we should probably start with Kendrick, and not Beyonce. But that would require Black men to drop our misogynoir and value the voices of Black women when they speak about their oppression at our hands.