‘Formation’ helps form new opinions

When Macklemore addressed his own privilege with “White Privilege II” he didn’t get nearly as big of a reaction as Beyoncé did this afternoon with “Formation.”

The lyrics make little sense the first time listened to, as if she strung together small statements with little relativity to each other. However, with closer inspection her words address the stigmas placed on her because of her race, gender and prominence in pop culture.

Within the first minute of the song she says “I like my baby hair, with baby hair and afros. I like my negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils.” European traits have been the most major influence for beauty-what is seen as acceptable in society. Beyonce’s denouncement of these beauty standards is powerful because of how widely-known and popular she is, but it is nothing new. She is simply emphasizing what other people, though vastly less popular than her, have been saying for years. A few other social justice statements of this nature are in the song, but sadly over half of it is lost in a repetitive chant that, while catchy, lacked substance.

The music video as a whole gives off the same message that the song held, but the visuals offer more power than the words. One scene in particular was striking, when a line of police officers covered in riot gear are standing in a line watching a little black boy. He’s dancing, and the officers do nothing but stand guard for the majority of the time. At the end, rather than act on the hostility that seems presented in the situation, they put their arms up in surrender and the camera pans to a wall with “Please stop shooting us” spray painted on it. This reference to the numerous cases of racially fueled shootings could have been a stand alone image and still could have the same impact.

Beyoncé’s daughter is featured in the video sporting her natural hair as well as the various black male and female dancers. Even Beyoncé herself is rocking unbelievably long blond braids, a look that is directly associated with black culture whether the context be positive or negative. The natural look of black people is construed as beautiful throughout the video, something that is quite the opposite of the message a lot of companies have put out.

This made me more forgiving of what the song lacked in its second half. Beyoncé is a major icon and this song is definitely going to impact people’s perspectives. It also shows that racial stereotypes should not make you feel that you can’t indulge in something simply because it has been used negatively to describe your race. If Beyoncé likes collared greens and cornbread, what’s stopping you from admitting it too? When Beyoncé says “I slay” for the tenth time in a minute just know that she does, and so do you.