MY FELLOW WHITE GIRLS: The following is a public service announcement that might be unpleasant, but it’s important, so put down your PSLs for a second and listen up. Ready?
“Formation” isn’t our jam.
“But I totally carry condiments around in my purse!” you argue.
“But I’ve been to New Orleans and, like, really connected with the culture!”
“But I too am a proponent of baby hair and afros!”
Nope. (Also: nice try. You totally looked up baby hair on Urban Dictionary like the rest of us.)
Look, I get it. Bey is bae. Show me a girl who didn’t let out an involuntary YAAAAASS when she executed that iconic double middle-finger in all black and I’ll show you a liar. (Or someone who stubbornly clings to pronouncing it “yes.”) But that stance wasn’t for us, and neither is the rest of the song. I’m sorry. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, and honestly, I’m just as torn up about it as you are. Take a breath and please don’t panic. Is it a bummer that instead of the fabulous, defiant, sexy, resplendent Beyonce, our default icon is a girl whose idea of a wildest dream is um, watching the sun set? While wearing a nice dress? Duh. But before you get toooo deep into your Black-Girls-Get-The-Coolest-Pop-Culture-Icons-No-Fair rant, keep in mind what else Black girls get. Like, you know, extreme pay inequality. And three times the domestic abuse as white women. And murdered for not using a turn signal.
So I think we can deal, fam.
That being said, what’s a pasty girl to do upon hearing the undeniably catchy strains of “Formation”? Here are some ideas.
Read a book. No, really! Beyonce is an awesome Black feminist, but she’s hardly the first. Curl up with some Kimberle Williams Crenshaw, Angela Davis, or if you’re in the mood for some real talk, bell hooks. Intersectionality is something that, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit, I didn’t think about until college. Thanks to the woke friends and awesome professors I encountered at UC Santa Cruz (which, admittedly is still the whitest UC in the state, ugh), I was lucky enough to read what these ladies had to say — and promptly realize that any feminism that excludes women of color from the conversation is no feminism I’m interested in. And what better way to devour the classics than with Bey crooning in the background?
Get your activism on. Ok, so this one’s a little tricky. You definitely don’t want to fall into the white savior trope (See: Avatar, The Help, The Blind Side, etc), but the key to being an effective ally is sitting back, shutting up, and being super-open to learning. If the powerful images in the video for “Formation” of Beyonce sinking in Katrina-esque waters or the brave hoodie-clad kid dancing in front of a line of riot police strikes a chord, by all means run with that. Just make sure to do so with your privilege checked, your mind open, and your mouth ready to be closed if necessary.
Explore other music. It’s OK to venture outside the Bey box. She’s not going anywhere, promise. My favorite parts of “Formation” were the times Big Freedia chimed in. She legit had the best lines. Well, most of them. (See aforementioned ‘Red Lobster’). Also, full disclosure? I had no idea who she was before now. I will forever be indebted to “Formation” for introducing me to the self-proclaimed Queen Diva and Bounce music, which Wikipedia describes as an energetic style of New Orleans hip-hop, and I describe as my new pre-game playlist.
Dig in. All the references to hot sauce, collard greens, and, of course, Red Lobster making you hungry? By all means, get your eat on! Soul food is a beautiful thing, and while my preschool palate makes me more partial to mac n’ cheese than say, oxtail, I think we can all agree on a perfectly-buttered slice of cornbread. While you’re munching, be mindful of appropriation, gentrification, and the totes uncool reality that oftentimes things that are generally considered ‘ghetto’ and ‘ratchet’ conveniently become ‘hip’ and ‘trendy’ once given the white people stamp of approval. Ew. Don’t let that ruin your appetite, but keep it in consideration (i.e. maybe hit up the BBQ joint that’s been a fixture in your neighborhood for generations, as opposed to the chicken & waffles pop-up food truck staffed entirely by American Apparel-y blondes.)
Dance! Sure, squealing “this is my jam” is eye-roll inducing but dancing is totally OK, and let’s be honest, inevitable. Just keep in mind that you probably look something like this.