When A Beyoncé Concert Becomes A Battleground Of Cultural Appropriation

Photo: Stephen Lovekin/REX.
Here's a scene out of every Black Beyoncé fan's worst nightmare: We're dancing in our freakum dresses, basking in the glory of Yoncé's light, until a white fan is a little too eager to join in on Formation's celebration of Black femininity. Bey can sing about liking her "negro nose with Jackson 5 nostrils" because she has them, and bears the cultural and historic weight of this identity. As for the blonde in the seat next to you? Not so much. This narrative is shared often online, it turns out, with Black fans reporting feeling displaced at shows for artists that celebrate Black identity. Tumblr user demho3zhatinq was candid about the suspicious looks shot her away during Bey's Formation World Tour. "The formation tour was torture for me," the user wrote. "Surrounded by white girls that would stare you down while having cornrows, grillz, Bantu knots, dressed up in bomber jackets. It was a headache. Some would sing along with 'negro nose,' and '[racial slur].' In a space that was for me, simply wasn’t." Other fans have echoed that sentiment on Twitter:
Fans have reported the same feelings at Kanye West concerts:
Beyoncé's work is often a battleground for these discussions about race, privilege, and culture because the musician has such a singular importance to Black women. Lemonade teaches Black women to love their Black bodies, "Becky with the good hair" is rooted in slavery and the historic devaluing of Black women. Even the title of 2013's "Mrs. Carter Tour" was a nod to debunking stereotypes about unmarried Black women (an important stance that some people missed). The buzzword for this discussion is "access." When white fans call cornrows "boxer braids" or use the n-word, Black women — the very people Bey glorifies in her music — are often denied their ownership in this legacy. Everyone can praise and worship at Beyoncé's holy church of slay. However, make no mistake that the queen engages with the specific racial history of the identity politics she pulls from.

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