Opinion: It’s time to ‘shut up and listen’

Beyoncé Knowles-Carter’s new smash hit, “Formation,” has been blowing up the presses with controversy for a little over two weeks.  There’s a lot I could say about it as a woman, a musician, an artist and a social justice activist.

It’s undoubtedly a great video and impressive R&B song.  Many writers have chimed in with their opinions on the impact of  “Formation” on the anti-racism and social justice spheres, with reactions ranging from “this is the best song ever written” to “Beyoncé is a racist and most likely the devil.”

I certainly have an opinion on these things.

However, I’m not going to write about it.

Why? Because I’m the whitest girl you’ll ever meet.  If there’s a drop of non-white blood in my veins, it has yet to show itself.  I’m a pale-skinned, blue-eyed girl with straight hair who can’t handle hot sauce.

“Formation,” as a song, isn’t about me, and it’s not my (or any other white girl’s) job to comment on it. I don’t have “baby hairs and afros” or a “negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils,” I have an Eastern European nose with Christina Perri nostrils and baby hairs that get into my eyes along with my straight bangs.

My opinion on “Formation” doesn’t matter; at least, not beyond my own headphones.  If I don’t like it, I don’t have to listen to it.  Anyone out there crying “Racism!” because Beyoncé sang about being Black in America needs to have a good, long think about the focus of the music they enjoy.

I don’t care if my white peers think “Formation” is too political, or not political enough, or cop hating, or anything else.  “Formation” is about Blackness, Black culture, and what that means to Beyoncé as an individual and to Black women as a whole.

How many Black mothers have been told to get their daughters’ hair in line? Beyoncé has been on the receiving end of more than enough comments on Blue Ivy’s grooming habits.  You know what she has to say about it? “I like my baby’s hair with baby hair and afros.”

How many Black mothers have buried their children, like Samaria Rice, after they were shot by police?  All the “Formation” video asks is “stop shooting us,” as a child dances and riot police put their hands up (That’s not even antipolice, it’s antimurder.)

When, in recent history, were white people shamed for having narrow noses?

We weren’t.

So if Beyoncé likes her “negro nose with Jackson 5 nostrils,” she’s already spitting in the face of Eurocentric beauty standards that have oppressed people of color for years.

For nearly 400 years, Black narratives and Black voices have not been heard on their own terms.  Slavery and segregation have crushed out thousands of Black stories in the name of white supremacy.  White people: It’s our turn to shut up and listen.

The use of Black as opposed to black refers to Black American culture and ethnicity as opposed to race. For more about what “Formation” means to Black culture, read Tiffany Lee’s essay “If You Ain’t Got In-Formation” on Black Girl Dangerous.