Some of my friends asked me why Formation isn’t for non-Black people. (Incidentally one of the people asking wasn’t even white. So there are layers to these kinds of questions.
First read this article by Mikki Kendall.
Then read this one about what Scotland wants to do.
Then read this one.
I’d kinda like to link to writing from Black writers all day long to explain this because the reasons shouldn’t really come from a white face. But in short I’ll say: why shouldn’t non-Black people steal this song? Because it isn’t our culture to rebelliously claim. This is a rebellious song. This is a song directed from a marginalized group to the dominant paradigm saying, “I’m not going to stop existing for you.”
That’s not a struggle that should be co-opted. In this country our history of racial tension is such that non-Black people co-opting this specific flavor of rebellion is disrespectful in the extreme.
No one who isn’t Black should be dancing to a song in which a woman proudly claims that she loves her negro nose with Jackson 5 nostrils. If you don’t have ’em, shut up. I love you. I love the song too. I’m singing kinda under my breath because it is catchy and beautiful and full of self-love and I totally love that thing. Hell if you don’t understand what it means to mix Creole and negro… stay the fuck out. For reals. Why? Because white culture steals fucking everything and we need to stop.
But I’m going to keep my awareness of the song low key because this isn’t for me. Just like I don’t try to co-opt other life-struggles. I’m not Black. That’s never been my battle and it never will be. If it isn’t your battle, if you don’t understand that the Black Panthers were huge social organizers…
This isn’t for you and that’s ok.
This song is about a culture of diaspora trying to say, “We are here even though you’ve spent hundreds of years using us and trying to kill us. Fuck off. We ain’t changing.”
Read about the insults Beyonce deals with. If these things escape your attention… then you shouldn’t sing this song. Just like white people should spend a lot of time singing Strange Fruit. (It’s on my playlist as a reminder of history. I wouldn’t act like it was my culture.)
These things only matter if you think every culture is equally worthy of respect. If you look at history, ain’t many folk who treat American Blacks like they have a culture worthy of respect. That really has to change.
(For the record: the video was actually filmed in Pasadena in a house that was converted to a set, not IN New Orleans.)
Ok so Scotland isn’t really pushing to extradite her (I get that it is satire). But if you look through the history of American Blacks… they often were held to ridiculous measures. American Blacks have lived with threats, terrorism, and genocide since their forced arrival here.
And we still want to steal every fucking song and make money off it while leaving American Blacks in grinding, nauseating poverty. If American Blacks start catching up on the system we will change the rules until we can fuck them for another generation.
Why shouldn’t non-Black people dance to this song? Because it is a song documenting a very specific struggle. That isn’t ours.