Society and Culture
Police Officers Boycotting Beyonce: Isn’t this a Little Ironic?
The American police have taken on a new level of stereotypical behavior–the kind that they have been notoriously alleged to partake in, yet vehemently refuse to admit. However, they do not have to admit it this time–their words, followed by their request for action will provide ample evidence to show that they are working hard to further discriminate against the black population. Their new adversary? Beyonce. Yes, Queen B is being targeted by a number of police unions as an individual unworthy of protection due to her blanketed and generalizing depiction of law enforcement and her advocacy for the #BlackLivesMatter social movement. Sounding ironic? It should be.
Before addressing Beyonce’s advocacy and creative interpretation, I would like to make the following observations: John Lennon worked tirelessly to develop a peaceful revolution through song, performance, and lyric. Paul McCartney continued that very public and non-discreet political picture. U2 and Bono have been devoted, active, and outspoken pioneers for Africa in the fight against HIV-AIDS and promoting education, often times criticizing the lavish lifestyles of the rich and famous and taking a stark political stance. Bruce Springsteen has had a longstanding devotion to his outspoken political views, dedicating songs to his beliefs and publicly providing support for various political candidates. And who could forget the Dixie Chicks’ controversial stance against the War in Iraq?
These megastars represent a short list of artists and performers who have taken a political stance, used performance and creativity to depict political ideologies, or issued a statement based on a personal view or belief. However, none of those artists have suffered the same level of scrutiny and extreme backlash like the Queen B.
On Saturday, February 6, the diva released a video for her first new song since 2014, entitled “Formation.” The video instigated rapid fire responses about Beyonce’s exploitation of a marginalized and traumatized black New Orleans’ community, particularly post Hurricane Katrina, her open representation of southern blackness, more specifically that of a southern black woman, and resistance practices exercised by black individuals and communities.
The next day, she followed up the release of her video with a live Halftime Show performance of the song during Super Bowl 50.
Beyonce’s 2-day delivery was calculated and intense. Her message was important–that formation and organization are necessary to combat racial-based violence and embark on a path of social movement. Yet, her delivery was controversial–utilizing the black tragedy within New Orleans and exploiting the voiceless and marginalized community as her backdrop without ever giving the appropriate credit to those, like Messy Mya–a “household NOLA name” who was shot and killed at the age of 22, that provided Beyonce with the tools to tell a story that she portrayed as her own and solely for the “paper” that she sings so freely about. Whether one agrees with Queen B’s message or her in-your-face delivery, it is quite blatantly open for discussion and debate.
However, what is not readily open for discussion is the number of various police unions that are calling for an outright boycott of law enforcement for Beyonce’s upcoming world tour. While the police state that they would respond should Beyonce need help at any time, they are calling for a boycott that “would involve officers refusing to work paid off-duty security for the event, not refusing to perform regular law enforcement duties.” So why are privately-hired individuals who have the right to turn down a job boycotting under the entity of a police union that is, by law, required to defend and serve? Do they not realize that by boycotting the performance they are also refusing to protect all of the thousands of individuals in attendance? Is this a public entity’s agenda presented within the vehicle of a private sector approach? Is a police union an appropriate outlet for boycott under the circumstances? And more so, what kind of message are the police sending?
Arguably, one could inquire about Beyonce’s message and what she is trying to convey to the American people. Like Rudy Giuliani, we could be critical of her approach and view it as a vicious and very public attack on law enforcement. However, that would be blatantly ignoring the fact that Beyonce is an entertainer protected by the ideologies and legal complexities of free speech who does not possess any kind of duty to the public. She is free to say, create, depict, and perform as she pleases so long as she stays within the confines of legality–which she did.
The police, however, live by a different standard than the pop star. Furthermore, as private individuals hired for a private event to serve as security detail, they can absolutely boycott and not take the job. But is it fair to accuse Beyonce of being a cop-hater and spreading anti-police rhetoric? Does advocacy of the #BlackLivesMatter movement automatically associate one with an anti-law enforcement campaign? Are the two mutually exclusive or can we support the #BlackLivesMatter movement while also appreciating the danger and difficulty with which officers do their jobs?
The Miami Fraternal Order of the Police, the Sergeants Benevolent Association in New York City, as well as the Tamp and Nashville police unions seem to find the two mutually exclusive and have urged their respective associations and organizations to boycott the tour. Other police organizations, such as the Raleigh police, are choosing not to boycott the concert held by Beyonce in their respective state.
Like Giuliani stated, we have “to respect the uniform, not to make it appear as if they are the enemy.” Well, I think that applies to all people, not just “the uniform.” Even celebrities have a right to speak out against issues such as police brutality, regardless of whether we agree or disagree with the delivery of their messages.