By Ryan Hiles–
“Are you offended as an American that Beyoncé pulled her race-baiting stunt at the Super Bowl? Do you agree that it was a slap in the face of law enforcement? Do you agree that the Black Panthers was/is a hate group that should not be glorified?” This last part is my favorite… “Let’s tell the NFL that we don’t want hate speech and racism at the Super Bowl ever again!”
That’s the invitation to an anti-Beyoncé rally being held outside NFL headquarters in New York City. The Super Bowl truly has achieved something close to universal appeal, so I’m assuming you saw her half-time show. Consider the incredible cross-section of people it attracts. If watching 300-pound men knock the hell out of each other isn’t your cup of tea, then guess what? They pause the game every five minutes to show you some occasionally hilarious commercials with production budgets bigger than the GDP of a small island nation. And guess what else? Coldplay is on at halftime! Who doesn’t like Coldplay?
That being said, when Coldplay was announced as the headliner for the halftime show, with Beyoncé and Bruno Mars only featured, I got a sinking feeling. I like Coldplay, I really do. Chris Martin can croon and ohh-la-la with the best of them. But there’s a certain kind of music that lends itself to an abbreviated, 10 minute performance at a halftime show. It’s a drag race, not a cross-country haul, and Beyoncé is a tricked out muscle car roaring to go. Coldplay is a Kia Optima, a fine automobile, to be sure. But a Kia doesn’t get people excited. What does is Beyoncé kicking in the stadium door, evaporating Chris Martin with her laser beam eyes and not-so-politely inviting Roger Goodell and the stale, robotic, multi-national conglomerate that is the NFL to kiss her ass.
It’s hard for me to overstate how awesome I thought Beyoncé’s performance was. I watched it again before writing this and the goosebumps haven’t gone down. In an atmosphere where it would’ve been easy to come out and do some uncontroversial hits about being beautiful and in love, Beyoncé instead threw down the gauntlet vocally and politically. The NFL signed up for strong, uniquely black, uniquely female performance and they got one.
Which bring us back to the aforementioned anti-Beyoncé rally, and the notion that her performance qualified as “hate speech and racism.” Hate speech and racism is what you hear at a Klan rally. It’s George Wallace, David Duke and occasionally Donald Trump. I’d bet you could find a little hate speech and racism at the anti-Beyoncé rally. But what is decidedly not hate speech or racism is a song that empowers specifically black women, or a performance that pays homage to the Black Power Movement of the 1960s and 70s. A movement that helped secure basic human rights for Black people in this country, and one which some people (I’m looking at you, Rudy Giuliani) might want to reacquaint themselves with.