Thank God I’m black. Let’s get in Formation
Ihad never really cared about Beyoncé before last Sunday following the release of her internetbreaking, think-piece-detonating, black-bloodsanctifying anthem Formation. I am not going to try to convince anybody who doesn’t get it, because I don’t care. I don’t care because I’m twerking. I’m twerking in my underwear, twerking in the bathroom, twerking in the kitchen.
As a black woman, I needed the world’s greatest pop star to amplify the conversation on blackness, black beauty, black feminism and black history, and to choreograph a confrontation of white supremacy to a sick beat. After watching it for the first time, I didn’t think anything; I just felt an indescribable joy that resides somewhere and everywhere in these four words: Thank God I’m black! I’m not even African-American. I’ve never eaten at Red Lobster, my hair isn’t soft enough to have baby hairs and I don’t know what a bama is, but I’m drinking the Kool-Aid because I’m black and happen to live in a society that doesn’t like it when black girls get together to celebrate themselves.
As a person constantly preoccupied with the many ways in which black people and women are molested in the world, this song and video offers respite, a window of fresh air from the suffocating prism of being conscious. It allows me to rest from intellectualising every element of life so that I can participate in it.
It is tiring to write about feminism in a society that hates feminism. It’s tiring to write about racism in a society where many people do not truly understand how racism functions.
That doesn’t mean that all caution should go to the left, but just for a moment, I’m selfishly enjoying the new sensation of diverting my attention from convincing black people to love their hair, and I’m choosing to get into the black-girl magic formation and rejoice with those who already do. It’s a matter of survival. Before you develop the armour to fight against those who hate your blackness, you have to learn how to survive in your blackness. For me, this song reinforces the self-love needed for that survival to flourish. It’s a pop culture rally, an international toyi-toyi for blackness to keep toyi-toying.
For the students running the F*** Campaign at Wits, the black women who are tired of patriarchy in the student movements, for black people in South Africa in general but, especially in the first three weeks of January 2016, for the immigrants suffering racist attacks in Europe, for the little black girl who doesn’t like her hair, for the guy who uses skin lighteners and is considering rhinoplasty – this song and video is a powerful homage to the black struggles for mental, spiritual, social and economic liberation. It’s an “I get it” from someone powerful enough to turn our daily meows against all this shit into a reverberating roar. And it feels good to take this for what it is – a gift from a pop star, not the answer to our problems.