[Originally posted on Facebook on 2/12/16]
Dear haters of Beyoncé's Super Bowl performance,
I'll be more specific. Many people have criticized Beyoncé and her dancers for dressing up in outfits reminiscent of the Black Panthers from the 60s and 70s. So people are upset because Beyoncé is representing a group with a violent history at an NFL game? The same NFL that has a team called the Vikings? And one called the Raiders? And the Buccaneers? And, while we're at it, one called the Texans? But whatever, I'll let it slide. I for one think Beyoncé can reasonably laud the Black Panther Party's commitment to organize against police brutality without thereby endorsing all of the actions taken by its members. But there's room for argument.
What I take issue with is the accusation that Beyoncé's performance was "anti-cop." There are a few problems with this. First, the song "Formation" is in no way anti-cop. The lyrics don't even mention cops. The song is about classical Western themes like being successful, celebrating your roots, and having sex so good that you get into a helicopter and eat seafood. Second, it's not "anti-cop" to denounce unjustified police violence against minorities and the culture of silence and deceit that surrounds this violence. The "Formation" music video alludes to the Black Lives Matter movement and shows the words "Stop Shooting Us" while a young black boy dances and puts his hands up in front of police officers. Since when is it "anti-cop" to insist that black children shouldn't be shot?
There is no reason to call Beyoncé or her song "anti-cop," nor to accuse her of hypocrisy for being escorted to the Super Bowl by the police. Beyoncé is fine with cops—when they do their jobs. The Black Lives Matter movement isn't against cops, it's trying to hold certain cops accountable to their duty to serve and protect. Being against medical malpractice doesn't make you "anti-doctor;" it means you want doctors to act like doctors should. Similarly, protesting the deaths of Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and Mario Woods doesn't make you "anti-cop;" it means you want law enforcement to enforce laws. Black Lives Matter protesters aren't against the criminal justice system; they are alerting us to the fact that right now there's too much "criminal" in it and not enough "justice."
Criticism does not mean repudiation. Condemning a group's injustices does not mean condemning the group. The world cannot be neatly divided into "pro" and "anti." The sooner we all remember that, the sooner we can all admit that the only thing wrong with the Super Bowl halftime show was that Chris Martin should have been Kelly Rowland, and Bruno Mars should have been Michelle Williams.