“Best revenge is your paper”?
— Can a capitalist such as Beyoncé be considered an activist?
Yes, as a Bey fan there is no denying that “Formation” is in fact a great song with such a powerful music video. She gathered her own community of ladies, wearing the colors of the Black Panthers, referencing the organization founded by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale — They practiced militant self-defense of minority communities against established government of the United States. This is a great way to show power to the black community because it is an epic reminder of how #BlackLivesMatter — which is a movement that stands against police violence against colored people. Furthermore, by claiming that she is part of the black community and that she is also a woman, she shared with us through her song that she worked hard to get where she is now — a successful woman and one of the most influential celebrities worldwide. What she did in that Superbowl performance can be considered a “slay” moment. How she used her fame and influence was a good way to support the Black Lives Matter Movement. All of these arguments do sound like an act of activism, however, we should not confuse activism with capitalism.
When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat for a white folk in a public bus during the segregation of facilities in 1955, she started up a citywide boycott that eventually helped to stop the segregation, nationwide. This was an example of an activist body — a body that rebels against the inequalities that society is enforcing on people, thus, leading to the changes to equality. A docile body, however, is a body that is obedient and conforms to the norms of the society even if it is unjust. When Beyoncé promoted her Formation Tour 2016 during the Superbowl 50, she demonstrated herself as a brand, being that celebrity who has to sell herself through her music to earn money like most of the singers today. During the Superbowl, viewers are bombarded with advertisements desperately trying to convince us to by their products. With Beyoncé selling her tickets the same day as the superbowl, knowing that she was going to be talked about as she made that clear in her lyrics, this “activism” act becomes questionable. She portrays a docile body that conforms to our capitalist society, by promoting money as a sign of having power — when in fact, the real people who are actually suffering from police brutality and are actually experiencing the inequalities are part of the proletarians who don’t have the “paper” Beyoncé considers to be as the best revenge. In this case, Beyoncé is literally the only one who is getting the revenge and not the black community, which contradicts the act of activism that should be for the people rather than one person gaining from it. As part of the burgeoise, Beyoncé as a docile body fits because she is part of the one percent of the rich people getting richer, as she claims to be part of the community who are experiencing the real problem our capitalist society had assigned for them — being poor, being unprotected and being inferior because of color. As we all know, Beyoncé is neither poor, nor unprotected, nor is she inferior because of the color of her skin.
Furthermore, one of the founders of the Black Panthers himself believed that capitalists are oppressors and exploiters. Therefore, by making her back-up dancers dress as the Black Panthers as her act of supporting the Black community, while also using that performance as a way to earn probably millions of dollars, it demonstrates her capitalistic ways which the Black Panthers stand against.
The first time I listened to Beyoncé's "Formation," I was en route to the Brooklyn Museum for an event commemorating…www.deathandtaxesmag.com
In this article, the writer mentions: “Seize the Time: The Story of the Black Panther Party and Huey P. Newton”, by Bobby Seale where he states —
“The cultural nationalists say that a Black man cannot be the enemy of the Black people, while the Panthers believe that Black capitalists are exploiters and oppressors. Although the Black Panther Party believes in Black nationalism and Black culture, it does not believe that either will lead to Black liberation or the overthrow of the capitalist system, and are therefore ineffective.”
In this quotation by Seale, it is clear that Beyoncé’s views on money mean power and how she promotes it is against the Black Panther Party. One can even argue by reading this quote that Beyoncé as a capitalist is one of the problem the Black Panther Party believes is far from the answer to Black liberation.
Nowadays, we seem to eat up everything the media has to tell us. We need to be more careful on labeling our leaders. I believe that viewing Beyoncé, a capitalist, as an activist is disrespectful to the real activists who have actually fought for communities experiencing problems in our society. She isn’t really helping the community other than earning money from the tour herself. The way she puts such a value on “paper”, as if it is the answer to the existing inequality is unfair to all the proletarians who probably will never earn as much as she does, as she is worth half a billion dollar married to a six million dollar worth.