Honky, Please: Protesting Beyoncé’s ‘Black Panther’ Dance?

First, let me address the obvious issue that some people are going to immediately have with  the title I’ve chosen: I am the direct descendant of an immigrant to the U.S. from Austria-Hungary, and the term “Honky” is short for Hungarian. So when I say “shut the fuck up, you stupid honky,” please understand that this is coming from someone who is allowed to say that.

First, some people in this country are freaking out about the Black Panther imagery of black leather and berets that Beyoncé’s back-up dancers were wearing, but it is very important to understand the actual realities of the Black Panthers before jumping to conclusions. I’m not going to explain the entire history of that organization, given that anyone who can read this either 1 – has access to the internet, and can look that up their own damn self, or 2 – Has broken into my laptop without my permission, so they need to get the hell out of my apartment. What I will do is address the most blatant issues, to me, with the overreaction and misunderstandings of Ms. Knowles’ performance.

As to whether politicizing a performance during event is acceptable, that is a debate that requires its own extensive discussion. People have a right to expression, part of that expression is the reason Beyoncé was invited to perform at the event in the first place, and you are welcome to simply disagree with whoever you feel like (just do so quietly if you live in an area of despotic corruption and don’t want thugs masquerading as a legitimate government to come after you or your family).  But the specifics of this example are what I want to talk about.

Some people have pointed out that “The Black Panthers are a Hate Group!” – but this misses the real history here.  The “New Black Panther Party” is considered a Hate Group by some of the same groups that keep an eye on the many disparate factions claiming to be the current KKK.  But unlike the Ku Klux Klan, which was first declared a bunch of Terrorists in 1870 (Yes, really, we’ve had terrorism for centuries in this country, people), the original Black Panther Party was part of the civil rights movement starting in 1966.  Dissatisfied with the state of progress of the civil rights movement in combating the lingering effects of obvious racism, this was a radical organization that, among other things, believed that their natural rights, including those defended in the U.S. Bill of Rights, endowed them with the authority to patrol Black neighborhoods armed.  Because if you don’t believe that corrupt and racist police were abusing Black people in 1966, you don’t know a whole lot about 1966 in the U.S.A. (or at least, the parts of the U.S. were that was blatantly rampant).  While the original BPP was connected with various inappropriate things (accusations that members were involved in various crimes were used to publically discredit the whole group, and every group that calls itself “Nationalist” makes enemies, sometimes deservedly so), the original BPP founders were not advocates of deliberating seeking to harm white people, white police, or any one else simply on the grounds of that Nationalism.  The KKK, on the other hand, was so obviously a bunch of violent terrorists that it only lasted for about 5 years in its first iteration before the U.S. government began doing everything it could to dismantle it, despite claims from Klan members that they were “doing God’s work” and “protecting Christian values.”  Maybe I missed the part of the new testament about who you should go out and lynch on the weekend, but I have reread the entire Bible (More than one translation, Catholic and Protest versions, and so  on) more than twice, and I’m pretty sure it isn’t in there.  Helping your neighbors most decidedly is, and it’s the only reason most Americans have even heard the word “Samaritan” mentioned to them.

Whether or not the Black Panther Party was right about everything is not the issue here – the issue here is that she is calling attention to the fact that racism, even if it is no longer part of the law, is still very much an issue many people, millions of people in the United States, have to deal with, and sometimes it leads to people getting killed. The idea that criticizing abusive police is offensive to all cops should be most offensive to the cops who are actually doing their best out there, who became cops in the first place for the right reasons, and who have to be associated in the minds of the family of innocent victims with the worst people to ever share their chosen profession.  Most cops aren’t shooting innocent children, in the same way that most politicians aren’t advocates of Genocide.  Politicians have a far easier time of speaking out in the media against the terrible things they oppose, however, because public speaking is part of their job. So the real issue people behind #BlueLivesMatter should be addressing, is why they aren’t doing what they can to help police departments weed out the sorts of people who will abuse their power in the first place.  The training received during and after police academies, Internal Affairs, public review and scrutiny, and many other methods of making sure that the right people are appointed to protect the public are crucial, so perhaps you should stop screaming at a song and dance number and contribute what time and energy you have towards something real getting done in this world if you really care as much about cops as you claim to. Being seen as corrupt and dangerous by the public is a far more serious issue for police officers trying to do their jobs right than any concert ever has been, so rather than pretend there is no problem, how about we try and make it better, from all sides.

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