Just blame the Black girl: Beyanarchists and the misplaced fight against capitalism
Ya’ll, I’ve had it with these motherfucking Beyanarchists on this motherfuckin’ plane.
“Wait, rewind, what’s a Beyanarchist?” you ask (and maybe wonder why I had to couch that in a reference to a movie I actually haven’t seen)? It’s simple really; Any non-radicalized individual (including liberals, Democrats, progressives, Centrists, Social Democrats, Right Wingers, etc) of any race or gender, but especially anyone who is not a Black woman or femme, who out of nowhere, takes a loud, angry, aggressive stance against capitalism when a Black woman, like Beyoncé, is engaging and succeeding in it.
Before going any further, let me tell you a bit about myself. I am an Afro-Dominican anarchist who loves Beyoncé, though I didn’t always. Though I grew up on Destiny’s Child and watched as Beyoncé’s career blossom into what it is today, it wasn’t until her 2013 self-named album that I truly came to hot sauce for Bey and became a fan. Before, I was appreciative but wholly ambivalent. But then that 2013 album dropped and I started to see and understand Beyoncé in a whole new way. I’ll spare you a dewy-eyed retelling of what dozens of better-written Black feminist thinkpieces can already attest, but I truly think Beyoncé represents and embodies a full and complex Black womanhood that is rare to see so proudly on display and this world. She also puts other equally full and complex varied global Black womanhoods on proud display lest you think there’s only one kind of Black girl or woman. In the many ways that, as a Black woman, she supports her own, funds Black movements, pushes back against the media, challenges patriarchy, and does and says things on her own terms, I think she’s subversive. Regardless how anyone may feel about Beyoncé, you have to understand and respect what she means to scores and scores of Black women of all nationalities and ethnicities across the world. Black women have few spaces, voices, and people to truly call their own. Thus, many of us find space and community in Beyoncé and her work, even if it isn’t without its own complex issues and problems.
However, I was raised in a Caribbean household that was critical of Western consumption and the idolization of pop stars. I’ve also read and developed an anti-colonialist, anti-state understanding of the world that also yet has that global south critique as its backbone. In short, I’m an Western anarchist with familial roots in the Global South and Beyoncé isn’t safe from my critical gaze nor do I forgive or ignore the power and position she has in society. “Formation”, at 1.99 for the song, is the first and likely last Beyoncé-related item I purchase. Having grown up in the DIY/All Ages music scene where you’re usually playing anywhere between nothing to 10 bucks for shows, any show above $30 is expensive to me, let alone the prices Beyoncé tickets go for. I’ve written and discussed the exploitative, false revolution of corporate identity politics and pop culture feminism that merely loves and aspires to diversifying positions of power and corruption as opposed to abolishing them. I have an issue with the sizeism, heterocentrism, classism, colorism, and queer/trans exploitation in her work, among other things. I had no goddamn intention of buying anything from Ivy Park in the first place, slave labor or not, because I don’t got that kind of money or interest in going that hard for any one person even if I do really admire her. I was never under the impression that everything she’s achieved and produced was done ethically or independently. She’s a pop star with people on top of people who go into creating the empire she rules over, not a revolutionary, and that’s real. Simply put, I do not and cannot co-sign everything Beyoncé does and the industries she exists in.
But Beyanarchists aren’t that deep. They don’t do “both and” criticism, they’re the “either/or” kind, and you’re either against Beyoncé or you’re an evil apologist capitalist. They’re not part of any radical movements nor do they adhere to any involved anti-capitalist ideologies or practices. As they type on their iPhones with parts salvaged by child labor in the Africa and Forever21 clothes made in sweatshops, they strap a black bandana onto their face and light up Molotov cocktails, ready to eviscerate, lampoon, mock, and denigrate any rich Black woman that might dare DO A CAPITALISM. After they’re done going after Black women (Ivy Park! Sweatshops! The third world! Exploited workers! Stolen aesthetics! Co-opted experiences of struggle!) & many times the consumption habits of Black folks altogether (They like Jordans and expensive weaves!), Beyanarchists go back to leading their normal consumerist, barely progressive, anti-Black statist lives. They don’t have a more involved critique of capitalism or anyone else they’re mad about for being just as bad as Daddy Knowlesbucks because they don’t care. They’re actually the type to roll their eyes at real consistent anti-state ideology and dismiss radical leftists who talk about system abolition and the destruction of oppressive institutions, the foremost of which being white supremacist capitalism, as they’re overwhelmingly reformists at best. They will launch in your typical “Anarchy Doesn’t Work” Bingo arguments and afterwards when you’ve filled three different boards you receive no prize and you’ve wasted hours being condescended to by someone with gross faith and investment in systems of extreme disparity and chaos because, well, “it’s the best option we’ve got,” yet at the same time seems to hate a Black woman for succeeding in a system so many of them think is inevitable.
Beyanarchists engage in and believe many spoken or implied hypocrisies and fallacies, such as:
- They’re the first to criticize rich Black female pop stars. Because ordinarily Black female pop stars so elevated and worshiped and never, you know, hyper-scrutinized by everyone even within their own community, sending white people and Black patriarchs alike into moral panics about society and getting the Black & Latinx community routinely more criminalized & scapegoated by said moralizing white people, which leads to less respect and opportunities, more gendered policing and incarceration, poverty, and death.
- Global South people are all unequivocally poor and exploited victims and exclusively non-Black. You will find many (often monied, privileged) Western South Asians using Beyoncé’s latest album as opportunity to sanctimoniously claim they’re “Not drinking the Lemonade” because they’re such Decolonized Third World rebels, unlike those gluttonous privileged African Americans, because also according to them, not only was African American labor never exploited by capitalism, but all Black people are all Americans and thus smug and arrogant and unwilling to check how much privilege and power they have over non-Black global South people. “Global anti-Blackness” and “Non-American Black and African communities and people” are absolutely mythical concepts to them. M.I.A. is their opportunistic billionaire-baby daddy-having anti-BLM hero. Actually, one such smarmy non-Lemonade drinking South Asian woman whose Facebook I happened upon was a college-educated Game of Thrones-loving gentrifier in Brooklyn who was hosting a writing workshop that cost $500 to attend and yet had the gall to complain about how Lemonade was exploitation. I wish I was making that shit up.
- They compare Black women to the KKK and slave overseers which I won’t even explain why that’s totally not fucking OK because it should be pretty obvious?
- There are not Black Beyonce fans, Americans or otherwise, who are exploited laborers who actively work against capitalism and stand in solidarity with exploited and peoples workers worldwide.
- Beyanarchists themselves are not also capitalist consumers who are part of the problem and therefore capable of being part of the solution. Only Beyoncé did the bad Capitalist thing.
- They have no deeper understanding of global Anti-Blackness and the anti-Black roots of capitalism, they therefore do not acknowledge the historical and social toll capitalism has taken on Black women and femmes in particular, those people after all being the most exploited and harmed by its existence.
- No one else other than rich Black women are criticizable for exploiting people and engaging in capitalism. The idea that, capitalism notwithstanding, a Black female hustle is much more respectable than a corporate white cis male exploitative climb to the top is just a “double standard” if acknowledged as a perspective at all.
- Anyone who questions Beyanarchists, their misogynoir and inconsistent position on capitalism are Beyoncé fans.
- Beyonce fans are rabid, zombie, consumerist Beyhivers all to the same degree and level who are not at all critical of her as a cis heterosexual Western rich pop performer or of capitalism on the whole. If anyone, Beyoncé fans or not, balk and resist against poor criticisms it isn’t because they’re shitty racist pot-shot drivel, it’s because we’re all brainwashed and mindlessly follow and obey anything our great slave-labor exploiting overlord Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter tells us. Thus, Beyanarchists’ tired racist campaign instead becomes a righteous underdog fight against the droves of ignorant fascistic fans who will unthinkingly attack and destroy any opposition! #Beehive
- Beyanarchism isn’t the 90s racist white moral panic over hip hop merely repackaged but to focus on Beyoncé.
What these people don’t realize is that in hyper-focusing on Beyoncé, Beyanarchists do not actually contribute to the pre-existing work and conversation that surrounds dismantling and opposing systems of exploitation and oppression. They hold Black female celebrities to a higher, ridiculous, excruciatingly rigorous standard than anyone else therefore setting them up for failure. They speak over preexisting Black female resistance against capitalism because they posit us-our bodies, our struggles, our priorities, our values, our experiences-as being similar or all exactly the same as Beyoncé’s and thus part of the problem and not being decolonized or radical enough. They bulldoze past the complicated reality that is the global exploitation of Black, Indigenous, and Brown global south labor and ignore the fact that boycotting one pop star’s clothing line solves and addresses nothing, thus revealing that global south exploitation actually isn’t their focus but rather the Trojan horse they unflinchingly ride in on so they can have a reason to openly hate Black women. They reduce Beyoncé and anti-capitalism as an either/or, forcing many of us to silent our dissent lest we be tokenized by those with a chip on their shoulders against Black women, which is where I’m at: Given the state of misogynoir and the scapegoating and exploitation of Black female bodies at the hands of Beyanarchists, I feel like cannot in good faith be openly critical of Black female performers in a way that doesn’t hurt Black women on the whole. I silently soak in, like and occasionally share powerful and necessary criticisms of Beyoncé exclusively from radical Black women and Black queer and trans folk and yet still feel I might be stoking the fires among people who don’t like her for fucked up reasons. Then, in being put on that defensive, I feel like I’m failing in doing the necessary work of speaking out against capitalism and exploitation.
This is not the kind of atmosphere that reaps anything useful that can truly help liberate any of us from the violences of capitalism. It’s just an excuse to point the fingers at a Black woman who already receives miles and miles of flack and feel righteous in doing so. It’s tragic how this unoriginal shit has taken a hold of so many communities and movements these days. Its even worse in the ways it darkly reflects how people not-so-secretly feel about Black women and deeply impacts both the ways we move and rebel against power and the culture and artists we identify with. If we truly believe and understand, as Malcom X said, that “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman, the most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman,” then that means she’s the most disrespected person globally, and Beyanarchism reflects a deep disconnect with that truth. We are allowed little space for joy or freedom because we’re told anything we like is unrespectable, white-washed, self-hating, ghetto, angry, man-hating, misogynist, capitalist, vapid, you name it.
Keeping us to this standard ain’t gonna get us free, and if we ain’t free, no one is.