By now, we're all familiar with the powerful imagery behind Beyoncé's newest song Formation. The release of the video broke the Internet the Saturday before the Super Bowl. The next day, the Super Bowl halftime show and announcement of the Formation Tour sparked a global cause célèbre.
Apparently, Beyoncé and her backup dancers poppin' and lockin' in black berets and leather hot pants on Super Bowl Sunday was just too much for some viewers. Almost immediately, accusations began flying in the media that the Black Panther inspired performance costumes and her latest video expressed overtly anti-police sentiments.
In Florida, the Miami Fraternal Order of Police and the Tampa Police Benevolent Association encouraged officers to abstain from purchasing Beyoncé's music or to work extra duty security shifts at her concerts. The Nashville Fraternal Order of Police has also joined the boycott. Even the President of New York's Sergeants Benevolent Association says he supports the decision of Miami's police union to boycott (although NYPD officers have no plans to join in the Beyoncé hate-fest at this time).
My problem with this whole fiasco is the insinuation that police officers would refuse to do the job that they are sworn to do and which tax payers pay them for. Police officers are an important part of our social fabric. The public places a tremendous amount of power in their hands. However, police departments should not have absolute power or be immune to critique from their citizenry. As a U.S. citizen and someone who pays a lot of taxes, Queen Bey has the right to raise the issue about some officers use of force against unarmed people.
What makes the police boycott even more disgusting is that, since 2009, the Department of Justice has launched investigations into 21 police departments for charges ranging from discriminatory policing to misconduct that violates the Constitution. The majority of these investigations are race-related. Since 2010, the 10 U.S. cities with the largest police departments have together paid out more than $1 billion in settlements and court judgments in police misconduct cases. And, unfortunately, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Sean Bell, Rekia Boyd, Oscar Grant and Freddie Gray have become household names.
With this type of obscene track record, police unions should focus on the many serious issues facing their constituents instead of trying to decode what Queen Bey meant in the Formation video where a cute kid in a hoodie break dances in front of a line of officers with their hands up while dressed in riot gear.
I'd like to see police unions focus this kind of attention on lobbying to reform bad policies and tactics that put officers and the public at risk, such as vertical patrols — in which officers conduct a floor-by-floor stairwell sweep of public housing projects starting at the roof and working their way to the ground floor — like the one being conducted by Officer Peter Liang when he shot an unarmed 28-year old father in the dark stairwell of the man's building in November 2014. A bad policy is the reason that Akai Gurley is dead and Officer Liang is facing up to 15 years in prison.
On one hand, good police are regularly churned out of the police academies nationwide but, on the other hand, bad ones continue to terrorize the communities they are sworn to protect. Unfortunately, it seems that every week there is a new story, another rogue officer using the system to abuse their power in a more outrageous way (police officer and convicted rapist Daniel Holtzclaw anyone)?
The problem of police officers targeting, harassing, and terrorizing communities of color has become so colossal that Beyoncé, one of the most recognizable entertainers in the world, felt compelled to address the issue of police brutality at the Super Bowl – one of the most visible stages in our country.
This is particularly interesting as Beyoncé isn't known for being particularly political, aside from her feminist lyrics. For years, Beyoncé's music has highlighted women's issues with her messages of financial empowerment, gender-equal sexuality and positive body image. Back in 2001, Destiny's Child gave us songs like "Survivor," "Independent Woman," and the body-positive anthem "Bootylicious." As a solo artist, Beyoncé dropped "If I Were a Girl," "Girls Run the World," and "Flawless" that included a sample from a speech titled "We Should All Be Feminists" by author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
However, Bey's opinions on other social issues have been limited to one or two sporadic yet supportive Instagram or Twitter post for Trayvon Martin or Mike Brown, in between photos of amazing tropical paradises and lovely, behind the scene performance images.
There have, as of late, been rumors that she and her husband financially support the Black Lives Matter movement. These rumors were seemingly substantiated by writer Dream Hampton in May 2015 when she tweeted (then deleted) that the Carter's, "wired tens of thousands in minutes" after she asked them to help with expenses protesters incurred while demonstrating against police brutality in Baltimore and Ferguson. However, Queen Bey has never spoken on the subject outside of the recent Formation performance and video.
Despite the risky business of wading directly into the hot button political firestorm that police brutality has become, the Formation Tour is already being called a success with nearly one million tickets sold, and Billboard estimating that Beyoncé will earn between $200 to $250 million on her latest tour. Her newest tour is sold out in Miami, Dallas, Los Angeles, Toronto, Chicago, Baltimore and several European cities including Manchester, Dublin, Ireland, Stockholm and Amsterdam.
Even presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have weighed in on police abuse which leads me to think that the police unions in Miami, Tampa, and Nashville have done a good job of making themselves look petty and outdated by boycotting our beloved Bey. With mounting evidence that some police officers are not the good guys, these police unions are going to find themselves on the wrong side of history in their attempt to paint Beyoncé as a cop-hater instead of tackling the very serious issue of unarmed people of color being killed and abused at the hands of law enforcement.
Historically, the public sides with artists in the struggle for progress. We remember Bob Dylan and "Times They Are a Changin',", Sam Cooke's famous song "Change Gonna Come," and Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On." Naysayers, on the other hand, well they rarely make history. By protesting Beyoncé, the police unions highlight her power to unify, move, and even enrage. Real power is when you never make a public statement to media, yet the whole world is listening. Beyoncé has that power. As a generation, we will look back at this blip in time, and see that the Super Bowl halftime show and the police union circus that has followed, is what moved Beyoncé from mere mortal into the realm of the iconic greats.