Last Saturday, Beyoncé dropped Lemonade and not only gave us a much-needed distraction from the loss of Prince but set the internet ablaze as it changed the game yet again. From the tone deaf think pieces about the visual album’s controversial and divisive themes to the unfortunate literal interpretation of “Becky with the good hair,” everyone had something to say. Even if most of it did not need to be heard.
The issue that resonated with me most was the claim that Lemonade is a controversial album and a plot to create a racial divide.
There seems to be the idea circulating that Lemonade isn’t inclusive. Lemonade is very inclusive, just not in the way most White Americans want or will acknowledge. The album is a beacon of feminism, just not the kind of feminism white women are comfortable with. Lemonade is a love letter to Black women. Sorry other feminists, feel free to enjoy this letter but just remember that you’re BCC’d on this, it’s not written TO you.
What makes Lemonade so inclusive and diverse, in my opinion, is its ability to speak to the duality in black womanhood. Beyoncé is able to speak to the shared experiences of all Black women while also speaking to the individuality and diversity in each of us. BLACKNESS IS NOT A MONOLITH. WOMANHOOD IS NOT A MONOLITH. In every Black woman, code switching is a vital life skill not only between Black, White, and Other spaces but also between ourselves. How often have we been made to feel insufficiently “Black” by other Black people and how do we not internalize that and end up making shitty ass Buzzfeed videos?
As a weird girl who never quite fit in, I grew up switching between mosh pits, *N Sync concerts, and country line dances. Honestly, I was more excited to hear Jack White and James Blake on the album than Kendrick Lamar. Not that I don’t love K-Dot, but that was expected, whereas the other two were so surprising in how naturally they fit into this album. I will sign up to see Jack White over Kendrick ten out of ten times and “Don’t Hurt Yourself” confirmed that preference is mine to make and does not expose some inherent flaw in how I experience Black womanhood. “Freedom,” which featured Kendrick, speaks to the shared issues faced by Black men and women, but “Sorry” acknowledges that those shared experiences do not exempt Black men upholding male privilege over us, especially in the forms of sexism and misogyny. That’s alright though because as black women we are enough on our own. The visual of Serena Williams regally twerking while Beyoncé sings “I ain’t thinking bout you” reflects a reality of how many Black women interact with the men in their life. We are expected to be at their side even while they’re reinforcing the lie of our undesirableness by calling “Becky with the good hair.” I can be angry about the systematic criminalization of the black body while also saying “boy, bye” to men who do not respect me, and I can do all of that while listening to country music.
Lemonade is a personal and candid portrayal of Beyoncé’s reality and while I recognize that on my best day I am not on Beyoncé’s level, if Beyoncé experiences the same microaggressions as I do, then this must be a common thread of life as a Black woman in America. That is a powerful realization and the reason why Black women have already staked their flag in the ground on this album. Enjoy it, listen, watch and learn about what our existence is as Black women, but don’t for a second think this is for YOU. In the same breath, however, this album also says young or old, rich or poor, married, single or it’s complicated, if you’re a Black woman you will see yourself here. You will recognize the city streets, the plantation houses, the hair and the clothes and you will see the beauty that was in you all along.