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White Commentary on ‘Lemonade’: No One Asked Us

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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.

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Alex Brown

Alex Brown is a junior in high school from a small town in Kentucky. At his high school, he participates on the speech, academic, and tennis teams. In his free time, he enjoys playing piano, reading, writing, and watching Parks and Rec. He has been a staff writer for Affinity since October of 2015 and senior editor since July of 2016. You can follow him on Twitter: @_alexb12 and Instagram: @alex.brown

Alex Brown

Alex Brown is a junior in high school from a small town in Kentucky. At his high school, he participates on the speech, academic, and tennis teams. In his free time, he enjoys playing piano, reading, writing, and watching Parks and Rec. He has been a staff writer for Affinity since October of 2015 and senior editor since July of 2016. You can follow him on Twitter: @_alexb12 and Instagram: @alex.brown

48 Comments

48 Comments

  1. Daryl

    April 24, 2016 at 4:45 pm

    Wise well beyond your years, Alex. *poetry reading finger snaps*

  2. TV Juriste

    April 24, 2016 at 6:00 pm

    Meh. People should feel free to comment on a work of art and should not feel silenced because they are not the same race or gender as the artist. Lemonade is a fascinating, beautiful, multi-layered piece of art. I’m interested to see how different people view it and what they take away from it.

    • MsAniManiac

      April 26, 2016 at 7:35 am

      That’s the dismissive attitude that he was talking about.

      Non Black folk can discuss it. No one said that they couldn’t. There’s something relatable in it for many people. However, it’s aimed to a specific group of women and when the same non Black people criticize it for what they don’t relate to, it’s because it wasn’t for you or them.

  3. Blk

    April 24, 2016 at 6:55 pm

    “ONLY BLACK PEOPLE ARE ALLOWED TO LISTEN TO LEMONADE!” — said every fake suddenly afrocentric girl on Twitter

  4. joao

    April 24, 2016 at 8:18 pm

    “Alex Brown is a 16 year old sophomore in high school from Bardstown”
    Alex Brown I hope you’ll change your ways in life or you wont last long, well actually you will last a long time since all you do is to blend in trends and thrive to be well liked and accepted by the most trendy community there is. All you want is to feel the comfort of the crowds. You’ll last long but not go far in life.

    • MzLizz

      April 25, 2016 at 9:21 pm

      Is this the part where someone says ‘you’re not a psychic why are you hating on the kid?’ Is it because he’s more open minded than you are? Is it because he spoke the truth and said it so eloquently that you couldn’t comprehend a Caucasian siding with the intended audience? Or is it both and so many others?’ Unlike you, this young man has learned that yes everyone is entitled to their opinion. You can vocalise it do good and promote awareness or bad and promote negativity. Having an opinion doesn’t mean that you should always vocalise it ESPECIALLY if it’s filled with negativity that has absolutely nothing to do with the topic at hand. ????✌

  5. Samantha

    April 24, 2016 at 9:16 pm

    What a thoughtful and well-written article! It takes someone very intelligent to be able to step outside of their own experiences and look at a situation objectively or even from the perspective of someone else and you nailed it. I am excited to see the younger generation be so considerate, educated, and culturally-knowledgeable – it gives me so much hope for the future of the world!

    PS – please ignore the previous comments trying to instill in you things like “you won’t make it far in life” simply because you respect other people’s spaces and stay in your lane – can you believe how ridiculous those losers sound? lol!

    • Khanya

      April 25, 2016 at 8:22 pm

      You are lovely.

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  7. TV Juriste

    April 25, 2016 at 5:41 am

    A diverse team created Lemonade. All should feel free to enjoy and discuss. http://www.vulture.com/2016/04/your-guide-to-beyonces-lemonade-album.html?mid=facebook_nymag

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  9. Melody

    April 25, 2016 at 10:58 pm

    I can not believe this is written by a 16 year old! Wow!

  10. BunnyW

    April 26, 2016 at 7:22 am

    OMG, I thought this was written by a white, adult female. Young man you have insight and wisdom far beyond your years. Thank you for making my night.

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  13. Des

    April 27, 2016 at 3:08 pm

    I don’t fully agree with this but I do agree that the black female voice should be heard more on this. Should everyone else stop interpreting this piece of art? Absolutely not. If that was the case we would be limited to studying and interpreting only our cultures art work. I think that would be very bad for society and a backwards move toward segregation. I think it’s great to listen to another culture’s perspective and try to empathize and interpret and interact with what they are saying.

    One big critique I have with this article, is that this white male has said nothing about how males are commenting on Beyonce’s work which is focused on the black experience, the black female experience, but also the general female experience. As a female this is something I can relate to and should give my voice to. No I can’t fully understand the black female experience but I can understand women’s struggles. This article is just another example of a male telling women what they can’t do. Obviously it has escaped the author that I might relate to this piece of work as a female. He is doing exactly the behavior he is criticizing, but to women.

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