Arts and EntertainmentHey, white people: “Homecoming” isn’t for us

You can still love Beyoncé, but it is important to recognize that her art was not made for you
Victoria StringerApril 25, 201961601 min
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Photo by Victoria Stringer

I remember the sound. It was a low buzz that ran through your body and moved over the entire grounds of Coachella, electrifying you from head to toe. I remember it pulling everyone to the main stage, a hundred thousand people moving as one driving force. Beychella was starting.

As I watch Beyoncé’s documentary, “Homecoming,” I feel that same electric buzz I felt a year ago as I was sprinting across the polo fields to see the queen. But I feel something else again as well: the fact that Beyoncé’s performance was ultimately not meant for me, a white woman. I am a die-hard Beyoncé fan, but I must recognize that her music and her art are made first and foremost to recognize and empower the African-American community. To disregard this significance in her work would be to not truly appreciate it in all of its depth and to only experience it at a superficial level.

“It’s crazy to think that after all these years, I was the first African-American woman to headline Coachella. It was important to me that everyone who had never seen themselves represented feel like they were on stage with us,” says Beyoncé in a voiceover in Homecoming. Her historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs)-themed performance was born from a history of discrimination based on skin color that white people have never experienced. Her art was not intended for our experiences, and because of this, we are spectators only. I believe that it is extremely important to recognize when something is not made for you while still honoring the incredible work of art that it is. I will always sing along to Beyoncé’s music at the top of my lungs, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t really have anything to do with me — it is not my culture. In a world where so much is produced for and by the white experience, recognizing and honoring that which is not without attempting to appropriate it is so important. Appreciation, if you will, without appropriation.

Beyoncé claimed Coachella for herself that night, repossessing music and festival culture in a powerful way that demanded attention and asserted power. She spent 15 months creating a show that celebrated the education of African-Americans and then performed it at the biggest live music event in America in front of a mostly white audience, because her performance was for the minority present and that was what mattered. The editing of the documentary even re-emphasizes this message by only showing black audience members singing and dancing along to the show. “I feel like music can definitely be enjoyed by other people,” said sophomore Triniti Lemmons, “but by watching Homecoming alone, it was very obvious that her goal is to always highlight black excellence through her music.”

I recognize my privilege in being able to witness the piece of history that was Beychella in person, and I acknowledge the irony that said privilege is what allowed me to be there for a show not intended for me in the first place. I will always, always love Beyoncé; she makes some of my favorite music, and I appreciate her as much as I possibly can based on my own experiences. However, her art remains something I will not ever be able to understand in the way she meant it to be understood. Appreciation without appropriation is enjoying the music anyways, but refraining from claiming that you experience it in the same way that the intended audience does.

Victoria Stringer

6 comments

  • A white person

    April 25, 2019 at 4:09 pm

    I disagree with the assertion that her music wasn’t made for white people. Her music was formed by her experience as a black woman in the South in the same way as Toni Morrison’s writing or Maya Angelou’s poetry. That doesn’t mean that race is the entire encapsulation of her work. Beyonce writes about betrayal, loyalty, family, parenthood, commercialism, sex. All themes that any human, and American certainly, could relate to. To say that the art of a black artist is only made for black audiences reduces the totality of their experience and perspective to their race. This drives us apart rather than bringing us together.
    Beyonce represents much more than just her race. She represents Houston, hip-hop culture, Texas, our country, her gender, her family, and herself. Any of these traits identify her and her work, and focusing on race comes at the expense of every other trait.

    Reply

    • Victoria Stringer

      April 25, 2019 at 5:31 pm

      I of course agree with what you said about Beyoncé’s music having themes of betrayal, loyalty, family, etc. that everyone can relate to. However, my column was not intended to “reduce” her music, but to highlight the fact that to ignore the strong presence of black culture that is present in, and drives a lot of, her music, would be to devalue her work. I do believe that persons of any race can identify with the themes you named because they are themes consistent with humanity itself, I simply attempting to say that to reduce her music to those themes only would be limiting her scope as an artist and not fully understanding the purpose of a lot of the art she makes. I apologize if this was unclear; limited word count always leaves for some confusion!

      Reply

  • Sarah Jo'on Yeoung

    April 27, 2019 at 7:11 pm

    omggggggg some white person listened to Queen Beyonce!!@!!!!!!@!@@!!@!!@ Sound the horns of war this is HATE CRIME!!!!!!!!! Those people should be jailed and stoned for their transgressions!]

    The wanton self hatred and lack of respect of others for the sake of superficial social virtue will be your downfall.

    Reply

  • Sarah Jo'on Yeoung

    April 27, 2019 at 7:13 pm

    You think you have the right to tell me what I can do? Who do you think you are? If people like you got their way in society, we would still be enforcing segregation and thought policing. If you think you’re gonna pull wool over our eyes, think again. I and many others will fight back against your constant attack on individual freedoms. You may think you’re progressing towards a brighter future, but believe me, the ends never justify the means.

    Reply

    • Calliope Izquierdo

      April 29, 2019 at 1:19 am

      I’ve seen you commenting on a lot of trinitonian articles lately, and like, are you ok? Are you good? I’m not gonna make it appoint to give Victoria an award for writing this article because she didn’t write it for an award or special social points or whatever. But this is an important article to be visible on a primarily white campus: acknowledging the scope of your experience and how that affects how you relate to media (particularly Black media) is something everyone should do, but white people in particular have a more pronounced responsibility to constantly self-interrogate and be critical. While it is good to be weary of white people humbling themselves with the ulterior motive of earning “woke points” without living the things they speak, I don’t think this is it, necessarily. Actually at the precise moment of writing “necessarily,” it occurred to me that I don’t think you read the article, nor the other comments (or at least not one of them), and that I, probably shouldn’t expend the energy of finishing this sentence since I don’t expect you to read it either. But for the sake of posterity, I’ll double-down my assertion that actively pushing back against self-reflection minimizes the nuances of Beyonce’s intent as well as the undeniable fact that the totality of Black experiences are not white people’s to claim, even if by the omission of acknowledgment. In this case, “individual freedoms” aren’t relevant: a black person’s input on this topic is inherently more valuable than mine and yours because they could probably relate to the issue first-hand—but we shouldn’t expect them to do all the work of social critique for us.

      And also, re: “[these projected personality traits] will be your downfall.” Do you know something I don’t? Because shit, dude. I can appreciate some spontaneous theatrics, but like, what cause are you trying to represent?

      Reply

  • foreverawesome

    August 19, 2019 at 1:14 am

    if this was reversed and was a white woman singing and only having white dancers and singing about white people and empowering white people and basically saying that her concert was mainly intended for white people, it would be considered racist. just think about how if it was flipped. so yeah i think beyonce has become pretty racist, after her 4 album, i think she has gone down hill. i just feel like she is excluding white people and that we arent equal to her. i just dont get how people down understand that no one should be racist to any race regardless if one seems more or less privillaged. i am honestly disgusted by her coachello homecoming film, not one white person and i really dont like her singing the n word. just really horrible.

    Reply

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