Beyoncé & Cam: We’re Not ‘Celebrities’ Like Them, But They’re Black Like Us

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Black women and girls defending Beyoncé are not defending her only, anymore than Black men and boys defending Cam Newton are defending him only. Social media posts commending and defending either of them do not go viral due to contentious debates in the subsequent comments simply because of singing/dancing and football/dabbing.

Not all Black women who defend Beyoncé’s song/video ‘Formation’ and her Super Bowl 50 halftime show are ‘Beyhive’ drones. Nor is every Black man who throws a flag on biased media reporting about Cam Newton a ‘Stan’ or Carolina Panthers fan. Such a presumption is dismissive and oblivious to the broader context of who they [Beyoncé and Cam Newton] represent [Black people] and the subtext of how they’re both perceived–through the lenses of systemic racism, misogyny (misogynoir), and toxic masculinity–by ‘others.’

Many of the Black women and men who push back at what they perceive as unfair and problematic criticisms of Beyoncé and Cam Newton aren’t fans of theirs or even fans of their genre of music or team, but they are familiar with unfair, problematic criticisms.

Contrary to the popular [White/men] perception of Black women and men who defend Beyoncé and Cam Newton, their fervency comes from a place of empathy, not idolatry.

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Black women and girls know what it’s like to be objectified, dissected, discounted, disrespected, and dismissed for reasons as superficial as their hairdo and outfit or as personal as their body type, intelligence, and independence. The latter of which is often perceived as a ‘unladylike.’

Most Black women recognize the ‘virgin/whore dichotomy’ to which Beyoncé is subjected and they reject it, not only on her behalf, but on behalf of themselves–personally and collectively. Many of them may not know a full verse of a Beyoncé song word-for-word, but they know racism and chauvinism when they see it… and that they are not here for it. They are not here for Rudy Giuliani’s foolishness or NY-Rep. Peter King’s f*ckry.

Black women are also not here for the Black men who find it impossible to comprehend how Beyoncé’s halftime show could’ve possibly been an homage to the Black Panthers (on their 50th anniversary), despite Black Panther-inspired attire, raised Black Power fists, X formation on the field, and her dancers holding up a ‘Justice 4 Mario Woods’ sign.

Yet, prior to the game, many of those same ‘brothas’ shared a meme on social media that correlated Cam/Huey P. Newton, Carolina/Black Panthers, 50th Super Bowl with the 50th Anniversary, and Cam being born in 1989, the same year Huey was killed. The meme punctuated all of these coincidental facts  with the question “Still think it’s just a game?”

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It was more plausible, by way of a series of coincidences, that Cam Newton was integral to a covert Black Power operation ‘hidden’ in plain sight than the possibility that a Black woman was using symbolism to subversively salute the Black Power movement. Just as many ‘Hotep’ brothas are more willing to believe her success is a product of Satanic worship and secret society allegiance than talent, hard work, and dedication on her part.

Which exposes a race/gender conflict of interest when both Black men and women may rally in support of Cam Newton in the broader context of racism, but often Black men’s interests diverge when Black women support Beyoncé against the subtext of sexism.

The average Black man may not be a Cam Newton fan, but they can relate to being profiled as a ‘thug’ for their hoodie, socks with sandals, swag, and competitiveness. They know what it’s like to have their words parsed and used against them out of context. Black men can empathize with having past mistakes and allegations follow them for life, undermining future ‘mainstream’ opportunities. When Black boys exclaimed “Dab on ’em, Cam!” it was not only motivation for Cam newton, it was also a self-affirmation for themselves.

That being said, the mass subscription of toxic masculinity within the Black community often dissuades boys and men from being ardently in support of Black girls and women for fear of an emasculating and/or homophobic backlash from their peers. Sometimes, the derision of womanist Black men even comes from misguided Black women themselves.

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Black women and men, more than anyone else, should be able to fathom how and why Beyoncé and Cam Newton’s supporters in the Black community are vicariously supporting the community by way of denouncing racist and/or sexist biases against the two of them.

To be clear, I am not saying that all criticisms of Beyoncé and Cam Newton are inherently racist and/or sexist. Neither of them are above reproach; no one is. Not every non-Black person who criticizes them is a ‘devil,’ nor every Black critic ‘bamboozled’ or a ‘coon.’

I’m saying that even in absence of racism or misogyny as the conscious motive of their critic(s), the broader social context and subtext of white supremacy and misogyny exist. Which is a fact that Black people would collectively do well to remember, whether we support Beyoncé and/or Cam Newton or not. We may not be a pop megastar or an MVP NFL quarterback like them, but they are still a woman and Black like us. #dontBSyourself

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