Can White People Comment on Lemonade? Or Nah?

Can White People Comment on Lemonade? Or Nah?

Beyonce launched the visual album that launched countless thinkpieces, social media rants, online shrines and even outright ire. But one of our pop culture experts explores exactly who, and how, Queen Bey’s latest work can be analyzed.

Can White People Comment on Lemonade? Or Nah?

Lemonade releases and the world spins itself into a tizzy with all the questions. It’s been nearly a week since the release and the video event is still trending. What does it mean? Why is Beyonce so angry/so Black/so female/so ready to forgive?

Will it win an Emmy? Why is Serena Williams there twerking? Why is it called Lemonade? What is a Becky? Did Black people create lemonade? Why is Bey wearing a fur? What does it all mean???? AAARRGGGHHH!!!



Ok. Calm down.

Eventually, Grasshopper, we will all learn what Lemonade is really about. Or not. It’s art. Sometimes you get it. Sometimes you don’t. But what is equally as interesting as all the questions and analysis is who exactly is doing the asking and analyzing.

Damon Young of Very Smart Brothas wrote a piece asking White people to refrain from analyzing Lemonade until Black people, specifically women, had an opportunity to give a first take. Many people saluted Young for his powerful stance and commentary on the world of global media.

Piers Morgan, who is White, defied that advice by analyzing the video and its music. In so doing, he created a firestorm after stating, basically, that he preferred Beyonce before she acted politically Black. (You can read Ebony contributor Michael Arceneaux’s takedown of Morgan’s stance here.)

At the heart of Young’s request is a simple issue that is oft-discussed in reporter circles: America’s newsrooms are overwhelmingly White, and male and as newsrooms shrink, people of color and women are losing space and ground at the mainstream publications that essentially author the rough draft of history. This lack of diversity is terrible business, as is most recently evidenced by the half-baked, missed-the-entire-point analysis of “Lemonade” that is streaming through some of these mainstream entities. To boot, many American news agencies are losing readers/consumers because they don’t adequately cover their Black, Asian, Native and Latino communities.

Some media agencies “get it.” When a newsroom is diverse, there is an opportunity for a writer or editor to bounce thoughts off of a plethora of voices so that they might gain perspective on everything from feminism to baseball bats named hot sauce to a short fur jacket. Of course, in terms of cultural understandings, it would be even better if folk had diverse Facebook friends, diverse neighborhoods and diverse experiences, but a diverse workspace is a good place to start.

Apparently, some White male managers know they need diversity in order to maintain audience. Even National Public Radio is mostly White, according to this analysis by Tracie Powell at All Digitocracy.  This American Life's Stepanie Foo wrote this for Transom: “Finally, finally, it’s becoming abundantly clear that the solution to our diversity problem is hiring producers of color, and that diversifying your business is smart from a content perspective.”

And this “content perspective” leads us back to “Lemonade.”

Alex Brown is a White blogger, and admitted Beyhive member, who penned a popular post about why he doesn’t have to analyze it to love it. In part, he wrote: “While I’m all for analytical journalism, many of the aforementioned articles were written by… White people? Now, don’t get me wrong, White people are allowed to have opinions and share them (as I do frequently), but to attempt to interpret a film and album that was made for and meant to empower Black women simply does not make sense. We have to understand this: LEMONADE was not made for us. It’s not about White people. Therefore we do not have the right to claim it and decide what it means. We are welcome to enjoy the film and album and praise the masterful artwork Beyoncé has graced the world with, but we cannot act like it’s for us. Our perspectives on LEMONADE as White people are unimportant and unrequested, for the message that is to settle within the Black community is what truly matters. This shouldn’t offend us either; in a world conducted and directed by seemingly all things White, I am confident that we can handle this project not being pointed towards us.”

NBC News produced this piece about it as well. In part, the writer (who self-identified as Latina) said this: “So if we're not Italian, we shouldn't comment on Michelangelo's David? And if we're not Dutch, we shouldn't think about what van Gogh's Starry Night is about? If I'm not a Black Brazilian, I cannot enjoy or dance samba? Brits weren't the only ones who loved and identified with 'Hey Jude' or 'All You Need is Love.'”

She’s got a point too.

But in the end, when it comes to news analysis of modern events, the issue that everyone is tip-toeing around, or is unable to fully articulate, is how they are reacting and responding to the lack of diversity in newsrooms. If there was more balance, in general, of analysis and coverage of all things newsworthy, then there would be less backlash when “Lemonade” is negatively reviewed by say, a Piers Morgan.

People of color and women are just as qualified to work at newsrooms as anyone else. Why are they the first to get downsized out of a newsroom? And on the flipside, there are plenty of ethnic media outlets that are on struggles and need the financial support of those who are bashing Morgan.

Everyone should talk about “Lemonade.” It’s art. It’s important. Right now it’s a key part of pop culture.  Let’s just hope that diverse voices continue to get tapped or hired to tell the story.

And if any producers or editors are reading, just remember: Balance, Grasshopper.

Adrienne Samuels Gibbs is a Chicago-based writer. Follow her @adriennewrites





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