Let’s get in formation

Column by Hallie Beard, Junior from Louisville, Ky.

If you’re like me and didn’t watch the Super Bowl – not even for the commercials – you probably still heard about Beyoncé’s halftime performance. If not, hopefully you saw her surprise new music video, “Formation.”

As per usual, the video and performance garnered two kinds of responses: the “Slay, Queen Bey!” reaction, and the pearl-clutching, fan-waving reaction.

For the halftime show, she performed part of her new song while her dancers sported black leather and berets in reference to the Black Panther Party. Nothing too scandalous, but it was enough to set social media ablaze with race-related outrage.

While perusing Facebook, I came across a link to a tangent by Tomi Lahren, a political commentator and video host often featured on Fox News. The headline read, “Blonde Badass Tears Beyoncé Apart in a BRUTAL Rant That Has Gone Viral!”

Lahren opens her rant by claiming, “Now, even the Super Bowl halftime show has become a way to politicize and advance the notion that black lives matter more.”

I’m not sure when Beyoncé worked into her lyrics, “Black lives matter more,” but it must have been pretty sneaky.

Lahren goes on to say that Beyoncé’s message was not about equality, but “ram-rodding an aggressive agenda down our throats.” Since when are costumes and lyrics in a performance seen as aggressive? Country singers have referenced and shown confederate flags in their shows for years (see: Lynrd Skynrd, Kid Rock, Blake Shelton), but no one would dare call that an agenda in any sense.

In her annoyed and unprofessional rage, Lahren states that Beyoncé,  “like President Obama, Jada Pinkett Smith, Al Sharpton and so many others just can’t let America heal.”

Let that statement sink in – in Lahren’s mind, African Americans who celebrate their heritage or, I don’t know, express outrage about police brutality, aren’t letting “America” heal from the damage of institutionalized racism.

I don’t think Lahren actually has any interest in “healing” from racism, because she’s not comfortable with black voices. “Formation” is an expression of culture – one not every person can relate to – with references to afros, hot sauce, Creole and Jordans. If Lahren is uncomfortable with those references, it’s because she’s aware of her exclusion from them.

As she continued in disgust at her not being a part of Beyoncé’s life, she stated, “Keep ripping off the historical Band-Aid. Why be a cultural leader when you can play the victim, right?”

I wish I could give that question right back to Lahren, whose entire segment was a pseudo-victim’s cry of unfairness. After making the obvious statement that white girls like Beyoncé, too, she claimed that the singer doesn’t recognize that and instead wishes to perpetuate “the great battle of the races.”

Maybe Lahren watched a different halftime performance and music video than I did – I missed the part where she said she didn’t appreciate white fans.

As if her misguided spouting wasn’t ridiculous enough, Lahren ended with a direct statement for Beyoncé: “Your husband was a drug dealer. For fourteen years, he sold crack cocaine. Talk about protecting black neighborhoods. Start at home.”

How Jay Z’s past is relevant, I’m not sure. Celebrity involvement with drugs isn’t exactly front-page news these days, and it’s not a racial issue; Lahren only wanted extra dirt to fuel her rage. Forget that Jay Z established the Shawn Carter Foundation with his mother in 2003 to “help individuals facing socio-economic hardships further their education,” according to the website – that doesn’t vibe with her skewed stance.

Beyoncé didn’t write “Formation” for everyone, and that’s OK. She didn’t write it for me or other white girls as blonde as Tomi Lahren. Rather than getting irate about our exclusion, though, let’s take time to listen.

Maybe we don’t have spots in this one formation, but we can still stand in solidarity with Beyoncé and acknowledge that her upbringing, struggles and efforts are as valid as ours.