In “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” from her visual album Lemonade, Beyoncé weaves in an old Malcolm X speech where he says, “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.”
And so, in many ways, Lemonade is a survival counter-narrative to that harsh and hurtful reality. It is that much needed Black feminist tonic that affirms that our fears, tears and vulnerabilities matter. And it goes down good. Real good.
Despite some of the critiques that it is just a marketing scheme to sell records and that her and Jay Z’s marriage is fine, the truth is that a lot of Black women are walking away from Beyoncé’s new work feeling reborn with a power that comes from places that we have historically been told are problematic. Bey is reminding us that our anger is nuanced, complex and justified.
But most important, one of the most poignant takeaways from Lemonade is that, regardless of how we are treated by those we hold close, a Black woman’s worth can never be determined by outer forces — that must always come from within. And so, in spite of how the world interprets our kinks, curls, dark skin, light skin, wide nose, narrow nose, lips, hips, curves, swag or whatever, we are enough.
Let me repeat: We are enough.
And given how rarely Black women hear those messages, no one should be surprised that after we listened to the album for the first or even tenth time, we giddily twerked like Serena Williams, virtually hi-fived each other and started to really feel ourselves.
We lived. We rejoiced. We slayed.
But you know what happens when the world gets a whiff that Black women are having too much fun? Like, how dare we have the audacity to not hate ourselves? It gets hijacked because #MasculinityIsSoFragile. See some of ridiculous tweets I encountered below:
Obviously, these dudes are immature, misinformed and self-hating. And I know this doesn’t represent the entire male response. Nor should I let misogynistic Twitter get me down, but these reactions really hurt and may have even re-opened wounds I naively pretended had healed.
But riddle me if this: Why is celebrating Black womanhood and being empowered so frightening to the male gaze? Why does calling out mistreatment, sexism and infidelity — which we all know is real in our community — evoke this type of visceral response? No, we aren’t perfect, but neither are our men. And when Black male entertainers (and even white folks) “come” for Black women, where is your concern then? Ironically, it's missing in action.
Sadly, this type of misogyny isn’t a fluke or a one-off incident. It seems like every time Black women love something, from Scandal to even Idris Elba, the Black male concern police swoops in, scolds us and tries to tell us why everything we admire is bad and how stupid we are for not being able to see that for ourselves.
But it’s these reactions that only underscore why an album like Lemonade resonates with so many Black women. Like I’ve written before, on any given day it’s hard to not be bombarded with messages that Black women are too materialistic, loud, aggressive, unlovable, unrapable, ugly and not worthy. A lot of those messages come from our own.
Now, fellas, can you imagine how exhausting that is for Black women? How damaging that is to our psyches? Oh, right, too many of you can only see that when it’s white America judging you, not you judging us.
I guess all I can ask is that you keep in mind that a Black woman’s power is never an infringement on yours — we love you. Even when we refuse to turn a blind eye to your tomfoolery, we still love you. When trigger-happy police murder you in cold blood, in the same way they do us, we show up and rally for you. Hell, we even start social movements to honor those lives. Why? Because we love you wholeheartedly. But that can no longer be a one-sided affair, nor can we wait for you to get in formation.
So whenever you’re ready to love us — and what we love — in return, let us know. We’re here, just as not pressed as we were before.
Follow Kellee on Twitter @kelleent
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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