A Few Thoughts About Beyoncé’s video FORMATION

LJ Pemberton
Feb 7, 2016 · 3 min read

As a white person to other white people, there is literally nothing in Beyoncé’s new video that is for us white people except a big F-U to white people for killing black people.

We white people might enjoy it. We might go, WHOA THIS IS SO AMAZING I AM OVERWHELMED BY ITS AMAZING (LIKE I AM BECAUSE I MAD RESPECT/LOVE/WORSHIP HER). But that video is 100% a celebration of American blackness and a reminder that almost everything white Americans like to claim as cool or even American is borrowed from black people (who are then treated as invisible).

Melina Matsoukas directed the video. While Hollywood is wondering why we even need POC and women on staff behind the camera (or how to even recognized them for their work in front of it), Beyoncé and Matsoukas just showed hands down top down up down how different perspectives / different lives make different art. Can the idea of anything like an “objective” perspective in art / film / photography / writing please drown now in a heaping pile of steaming shit? Because FORMATION is Exhibit A that the usually-white-male, so-called “objective” perspective has been steam-rolling other perspectives since always because it doesn’t know what it doesn’t know. It can’t show what it doesn’t know.

The whole language of the video is high/low. It undermines any pretense that to be successful or aspirational a person has to give up their roots or identity, however humble in origin. That is radical as fuck and so goddamn freeing. I was recording my segment for the podcast this morning and thinking — can I be this crass? can I be honest about who I am sexually / what class I come from / what mistakes I’ve made / what life I have lived AND STILL be a boss-baller-business-bitch? Am I allowed? Beyoncé is like, yes, bitch of course, everyone’s rules suck and are hollow because they are built on genocide and cruelty. SLAY and don’t worry about the judgment of people you don’t respect. And really she is saying this to other black women and I am just lucky I get to hear it too.

I keep thinking about her and her entourage in the antebellum house. Goddamn that is powerful. Who do you think was doing most of the living and dying in those antebellum houses? Come on now. Black slaves outnumbered the white people in those houses by powers of ten. And they watched (and their descendants continue to watch) their friends and family be killed, judged, incarcerated, lynched, and treated like shit, but still black people in America survive and thrive and create. Beyonce’s video is a love letter to blackness from the inside of blackness. In a media landscape flooded by depictions of blackness and the experience of blackness from a WHITE perspective, this is fucking glorious. She just took 200 years of history and media and slapped white people in the face with their own ignorance.

Also, for a mindfuck, watch Formation and then watch Bieber’s video for Sorry.

That is all.

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