The mas­ter’s tools won’t dis­man­tle mas­ter’s house

CityPress - - Voices - Si­mamkele Dlakavu voices@ city­press. co. za

There has al­ways been a close re­la­tion­ship be­tween cul­ture and rev­o­lu­tion. Un­der apartheid, we had the likes of Dorothy Ma­suka and Miriam Makeba, who sang about the strug­gles of black peo­ple, their stolen land, poverty and in­car­cer­ated political lead­ers. In the US, there were the Nina Si­mones and Harry Be­la­fontes, who not only sang about the civil rights strug­gle but ac­tively par­tic­i­pated in it through re­sis­tance marches and cam­paigns.

Last week, Bey­oncé joined the list of artists us­ing their artistry to speak truth to white su­prem­a­cist power (which con­tin­ues to kill black bod­ies in ways that are seen and un­seen in Amer­ica) through her song For­ma­tion. In­deed, black peo­ple through­out the world mostly basked in it.

We watched with awe as she demon­strated re­sis­tance against po­lice bru­tal­ity; against a govern­ment that left black peo­ple to die dur­ing Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina; af­firmed the his­tory of re­sis­tance move­ments such as the Black Pan­ther Party; and cel­e­brated black aes­thet­ics of­ten per­ceived to be “ugly”, such as the Afro and the “Jack­son 5 nos­trils”.

What wor­ries me about the col­lec­tive love for Bey­oncé, how­ever, is that there’s lit­tle room for crit­i­cism, even as she, too, is a hu­man filled with won­ders and con­tra­dic­tions.

In the past, “Bey­sus” (as her fans call her) has col­lab­o­rated with artists such as her hus­band, Jay Z, who made light of the abuse of Tina Turner at the hands of Ike Turner. When I watched For­ma­tion, I was fur­ther un­set­tled when Bey­oncé made ref­er­ence to be­ing “a black Bill Gates in the mak­ing” and said, “Al­ways stay gra­cious; best re­venge is your pa­per”, thus cel­e­brat­ing a cap­i­tal­ist trope that says money, de­fined through the “suc­cess” of white males like Gates, is the only true way to power and the af­fir­ma­tion of one’s be­ing. In her lyrics, Bey­oncé’s enor­mous class po­si­tion as one of the rich­est black women in the world ex­presses it­self. She may truly be­lieve that your “best re­venge is your pa­per”. How­ever, fem­i­nist scholar bell hooks cau­tions us, say­ing that you will not de­stroy op­pres­sive sys­tems “by cre­at­ing your own ver­sion of it, even if it serves you to make lots and lots of money”.

In black feminism, we learn that all sys­tems of op­pres­sion mat­ter. White su­prem­a­cist cap­i­tal­ist pa­tri­archy has cre­ated a sys­tem in which black women are the faces of poverty, both in South Africa and the US. It al­lows for a mi­nor­ity of black women, like Bey­oncé, to “ben­e­fit” from it. There­fore, as Pro­fes­sor Pumla Gqola writes in A Renegade Called Sim­phiwe: “It’s im­por­tant to cre­ate al­ter­na­tives, just like it is nec­es­sary to speak truth to power.”

I hope that as Bey­oncé’s pol­i­tics con­tin­ues to evolve, she will not only speak truth to power in re­la­tion to gen­der and race pol­i­tics, but will draw from, as well as show­case, the al­ter­na­tives to a pa­tri­ar­chal cap­i­tal­ist world that many black fem­i­nists have al­ready en­vi­sioned.

We can­not be in­vested in white su­prem­a­cist cap­i­tal­ism, for Au­dre Lorde re­minds us: “The mas­ter’s tools will never dis­man­tle the mas­ter’s house.”

TALK TO US Is Bey­oncé’s For­ma­tion a thing to cel­e­brate, or do you find its pol­i­tics ques­tion­able – and why?

SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word SLAY and tell us what you think. Please in­clude your name and prov­ince. SMSes cost R1.50

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