After nearly two and a half years of (im)patiently waiting for the release of Beyoncé’s sixth studio album, the BeyHive was rewarded with a masterpiece of an hour-long album movie jam packed with pro-black women themes at every corner. From Malcolm X speech snippets to cameos from powerful black women such as Serena Williams, Zendaya, and Amandla Stenberg to powerful shots of mothers of victims of police brutality holding portraits of their passed sons to the Queen Bey herself being a straight up boss, it’s undeniable that Lemonade‘s impact will reach far beyond the night of its release.
With Twitter buzzing about Bey, many publications quickly took advantage of the widespread Lemonade obsession to analyze the message of the film and album within minutes of their release. While I’m all for analytical journalism, many of the aforementioned articles were written by… white people? Now, don’t get me wrong, white people are allowed to have opinions and share them (as I do frequently), but to attempt to interpret a film and album that was made for and meant to empower black women simply does not make sense. We have to understand this: Lemonade was not made for us. It’s not about white people. Therefore we do not have the right to claim it and decide what it means. We are welcome to enjoy the film and album and praise the masterful artwork Beyoncé has graced the world with, but we cannot act like it’s for us. Our perspectives on Lemonade as white people are unimportant and unrequested, for the message that is to settle within the black community is what truly matters. This shouldn’t offend us either; in a world conducted and directed by seemingly all things white, I am confident that we can handle this project not being pointed towards us. This concept can be confusing, but I assure you that every time a white person decides or proclaims the message of Lemonade, it’s a slap in the face to black women everywhere. As Malcolm X stated in a 1962 speech (which Beyoncé sampled in the film), “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.” To interpret Lemonade in place of black women is to disrespect and neglect the voices of black women.
This idea carries over to a reality in our society: white allies speaking over the black community. Far too many times I have witnessed a fellow white person speak above the black community on issues that they have no business speaking about. If you’re white like me, take a deep breath. I know it’s difficult to be told that not everything is about you, but you have to understand this concept. As a white ally of the Black Lives Matter movement, I have learned that I cannot speak over the black community on black issues. I have no idea what it’s like to experience institutionalized racism and constant discrimination daily and simultaneously. But rather than speak for black people, my duty as a white ally is to amplify the voices of the black community to help their messages about their struggles and experiences be heard.
I must admit, I am an avid member of the BeyHive. To anticipate an album for what felt like centuries and to be blessed with a project as personal and political as Lemonade is… it feels like Christmas morning, and Beyoncé is Santa Claus. With that being said, though, I know that Lemonade was not made for me. I am simply a passenger on this journey of black empowerment, and black women are at the head of the pack. And this doesn’t feel threatening to me, nor should it feel threatening to any other white person. Black power is not a threat to me; white power and black power are not mutually exclusive. So I won’t try to act like I know of the struggles exhibited in Lemonade, nor will I try to speak for black women on those issues. It is imperative for white people to comprehend that we cannot pretend to fully understand or declare the message of Lemonade. Even so, I will still enjoy the superlative, stylistically diverse track list that the Queen has arranged for all of us. Because as a white person, when Beyoncé gives you Lemonade, you sit back and watch black women take over the world.