Living and Learning from Beyoncé

I liked this write up on the Grammies by Damon Young, especially when he states that Beyoncé not getting the award for Lemonade as album of the year is upsetting because of the lack of representation, not because the award gives validation. But reading the first paragraph, it became clear the author is not a Mother of Color, therefore he could say about Beyoncés’ performance,”It was a spectacle. Depending on your perspective, it was either sublime or self-consciously overindulgent. (Or both.)” While I agree with most of what he says thought the piece, this opening really bugs me. Granted, his piece was about Lemonade not getting awarded, not about her performance but the way he discarded her Grammy performance, erasing the potency of her message to millions of Mothers of Color is heartbreaking. I think its important not to trivialize the power of the images of Mothers of Color that Beyonce is presenting us with on stage. Beyoncé presents herself as a visibly pregnant mother using the iconography she chose, as Oshun, a Goddess, or maybe more familiar to some of us, a Catholic depiction of La Madona, Mary the Divine Mother of Christ, and thus is a radically political message on so many different levels. This representation stands in stark contrast to the ways Mothers of Color and Black women are presented in dominant depictions. This wasn’t “self-conciously overindulgent”. This was not adornment for the sake of indulgence, this adornment was political resistance. The message was clear, Mothers of Color are Gods, for the miracle of creating and sustaining a life in our bodies and outside of our bodies in a world that insists on criminalizing, sexualizing, and dehumanizing our experiences. In a world that is set up to make motherhood nearly impossible for Women of Color. Specifically the way that race and gender intersect to stereotype Black mothers as “bad mothers”, and the way that immigration status and gender, intersect to caste immigrant mothers as “undeserving mothers”, for Beyonce to turn that narrative on its head with adornment that symbolizes Black motherhood as Devine, as powerful, as sacred is a revolutionary act.  

This message is radically subversive when you consider a popular meme out there highlighting white privilege and based off two cases that highlight Arizona’s racism, but really these are injustices that can be found all over the country. The meme, shows a White mom who is high on drugs and leaves her child in the carseat on the ceiling and drives off, she receives no jail time. On the other hand, a Black mother, without access to childcare leaves her child in the car with the windows of the car rolled down so that she could go to a job interview, automatic jail time. The dominant message of “bad mother” and “undeserving mother” are so normalized that our society has created a legal system where these injustices thrive. Not all motherhood is valued equally. This is why the representation of Black motherhood that Beyonce gave us in her performance, is not “overindulgent”, it is a message that is ultimately about Mothers of Color surviving, persisting in love, mothering one generation after another, and through that act of resistance stomping all over white supremacy.

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