Pop Culture Societal The Word 6 minute read

Beyonce and Being Unapolegtically Black

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Regardless of our opinion about it; some stuff is simply undeniable:

  • The best macaroni and cheese is cooked in the oven and not on the stove.
  • The Kardashians have more power than most politicians.
  • And Beyonce is currently the greatest living entertainer..

Proof of Beyonce’s utter domination is in the numbers:

  • She is the female artist who has spent the most weeks at No. 1 this decade (37 weeks);
  • She is the female artist with the most Top 5 hits of the decade;
  • She is the highest paid black actress in the history of cinema;
  • She is only artist in history to have all her studio albums win the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary R&B Album;
  • And she is the female artist with the most Grammy awards won on a single night with six.

Photo credit ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

The list of her accomplishments is endless.  As if it weren’t enough, Beyonce is  also a multi-millionaire and married to one of the most powerful and recognized men in the industry. She wears next to nothing on stage, sings about her “assets”, and went through a cheating scandal publicly. She is a mother of three kids; and runs a clothing line business.  Unequivocally, Beyonce is a grown-ass woman.

Yet, she’s just recently gained the confidence to be publicly and unapologetically Black.  But despite her fame and power, she was recently warned by her mother, Tina Knowles, that her Coachella performance “may be confusing to her White audience.”  In other words, “Baby, that’s a bit too much of a dramatic ‘code-switch’ in it. You don’t want to alienate your White fans. You may want to tone down on the Blackness.”

Ain’t that some shit?

In America, it’s less precarious to a woman’s career for her to grind on a chair in a sequined bodysuit  on national television than it is  to publicly embrace her Blackness.   In America, a Black woman can be comfortable writing an entire album about her husband’s affair, but must deliberate if it’s prudent to sing the National Negro Anthem at a concert.

Ain’t that some shit?

But damn is it real.  Being unapologetically Black is one of the boldest decisions a Black person can make in his or  her lifetime.  There is a “hiding in the closet” of our Blackness.  If we are honest, being proudly Black has been associated with being rebellious, angry, unmanageable, difficult, and ironically, racist.  Black pride can seriously equal Black professional suicide.

So, we keep “it” in the closet.  We don’t invite the one or two White friends from work whom we really like to our huge 40th birthday party because we don’t really want them to see how we are “unencumbered” (there’s a reason why there’s always the 2 Black people at White people’s celebrations, but rarely any White folks at ours. It’s either a mixed event or zero).

The working Black person decides and negotiates at different points in her life how proudly and publically Black she can be. Sure, everyone in the office, gym, book club, etc. knows that she is Black—of course (despite what some try to say, we all see color).  But she does nothing to bring attention to it.  While colleagues will gab endlessly about life outside of the office, many Black people will omit details that would highlight their difference—their Blackness.

My real job is as a diversity and inclusion specialist / trainer. I have travelled the world speaking about difference and the need to appreciate our individuality and identities.  Ironically, most of my career, I did this as a woman who was culturally neutral.  I was the woman whom everyone wanted to hire because there was nothing threatening about me: I’m lighter-skinned, can look like various races, could speak about a multitude of topics fluently, had perfect grammar, and never showed any political or cultural affiliations or opinions. I was the get along, blend-in, cheerleader, brought on-board to make everyone — especially the executives – feel good about diversity, difference, and themselves.

And then one day, like Beyonce, I stepped out of the closet.  I am unapologetically Black—Black and proud. And what’s interesting, is now I am far better at my job.  How can I teach about embracing difference and appreciating diversity when I hadn’t appreciated my own difference and instead attempted to blend?  I wasn’t being real and I also wasn’t presenting to my clients a real example of what real inclusivity is.  Inclusivity is NOT hiring people who are “technically” diverse while expecting them to lose any cultural differences and to blend with the majority; it is providing an environment where openly culturally different people feel comfortable being exactly and completely who they are. Undoubtedly organizations will get the most from, people who work in a safe and trustful environment where they can be their complete, authentic selves.

It’s odd that there is even a need for the term unapologetically Black.  For what did we think we needed to apologize?  Why is it even a thing, a statement?  It’s those constructs that need to be changed.  I recognize that my love for Black people credulously and erroneously makes some feel threatened; makes some feel as if I must hate them if I love me. That’s absolutely wrong. Looking at and speaking about my own identity (the bias it brings, the fear I had embracing it, the way it affects the way I see and view the world, and so on) now seems to free my seminar participants to share themselves more with me and with each other.   We are able to do true bonding because we are dealing with our whole selves.

I realize that because I’m now unapolegetically Black—unapolegetically me–some may decide that I’m not right for the job.  But, guess what, “if loving me is wrong, I don’t want to be right.”

They love the way I walk
‘Cause I walk with a vengeance
And they listen to me when I talk ’cause I ain’t pretending
It took a while, now I understand just where I’m goin’
I know the world and I know who I am
It’s ’bout time I show it

I’m a grown woman
I can do whatever I want
I’m a grown woman
I can do whatever I want

Beyoncé – Grown Woman Lyrics

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