Why does Beyoncé™ overtly promote blackface while capitalizing off images of “Black Power” and “Black Royalty”?
“Beyoncé™ is not Black, she is OJ.” As I wrapped my head around how Beyoncé could claim to promote Black royalty, sovereignty, pride, and excellence in Black Is King just a few months ago, then now propagate imagery of two white women blackfacing in her fast fashion Ivy Park brand on Instagram (@weareivypark) — this pieced together quote resonated in my mind. I am not comparing Beyoncé to the defamed American football legend OJ Simpson. If this is what you think, stop reading now.
“I am not Black, I’m OJ” was a statement privately made by Simpson to his counsel during the most sensationalized murder trial of the century — and is documented in the many fictional and oral history retellings of the trial. To me, clearly outside of the specifics of the case, this quote evokes a metaphor for whitening. Particularly, how wealthy powerful celebrities transcend the politics of race while selling blackness. OJ was not Black, he was a capitalist enterprise whose identity as a wealthy athlete celebrity and image sold orange juice, rental cars, films, and so much more.
Beyoncé™ is a capitalist enterprise as well, she is not Black — or at least Black in the political sense. Her blackness is her business to sell clothes, music, films, etc. It is not her radical politics or her daily reality.
For the vast majority of Black identified celebrities money, power, and self-promotion transcends politics of race. Their blackness is their business — literally! — and not the politics in which they stand and live in. Blackness as a capitalist enterprise is terrifying to me. Especially, when we understand the history of white supremacist capitalism which has made Black bodies, images, cultures, and beings into wearable commodified entities, while dehumanizing and killing Black people for the past 500 years.
After 4 days, the image of the two white women blackfacing was taken down from the Ivy Park Instagram page. Black women, many who are supporters of Beyoncé and the Ivy Park brand, were gaslighted, demeaned, and ignored in the comments during those 4 days. The two blackfacing women and their supporters responded to the backlash of the photo within the comments by spewing anti-black and condescending rhetoric about dark skin Black women to Black women for the world to see. I was going to place energy into writing an article about:
Why white women participate in blackface?
How colorism plays into blackfacing/blackfishing (or even mixed-fishing)?
Why is blackface a white American cultural form?
How blackface, as an American cultural norm, is currently disseminated throughout the world?
Outside of dissemination of American culture, how does blackface show up in the history and culture of other countries with anti-black/colonial histories?
How is blackness used as a tool of capitalist extraction and expansion?
Why is anti-blackness global?
What does anti-blackness and blackface look like in places, like Russia, Japan, China, and Korea?
Why are celebrities — especially ones that propagate white supremacist capitalist values and norms — platformed as activists?
But I address these questions ad nauseam on my Instagram page @almostdrlisabetty, and a lot of my recent writing has documented all of this:
Blackface, fast fashion, and Black celebrities as capitalist enterprises will not end anytime soon. And Beyoncé or Ivy Park are not putting anything in my circular economic collection plate to educate them, and either is anyone who actively ignores blackface/blackfishing. So instead here, I am just going to say what I said, “Beyoncé™ is not Black, she is OJ.” And at this point, in my opinion — for taking 4 days to take down that blackface image — Beyoncé™ is an anti-black capitalist enterprise.