Once Beyoncé new visual album, Lemonade, debuted on HBO last month, reactions rolled in from the Internet almost instantly. Some of those reactions have been from fans and peers singing her praises. That’s not to say criticism wasn’t right around the corner.
One fellow female artist in particular assumed the role of bad cop, and her allegations toward Beyoncé have fans, especially white female ones like me, confused and angry. Iggy Azalea criticized the use of the name “Becky” in a song lyric as racist towards white women in a tweet that she later deleted.
It’s hard to take Iggy seriously when she calls Beyoncé racist, especially considering that Iggy is often criticized for directly appropriating black culture as a white hip-hop artist. The use of “Becky with the good hair” in the lyrics as someone a lover cheated with is tongue-in-cheek at worst, and harmless at best.
Curious about the stereotypical connotations of “Becky,” I dug deeper, and turned to Urban Dictionary, because, when in doubt about American-English slang, Urban Dictionary never disappoints. Lo and behold, the sixth entry defines “Becky” as “hot white girls, or snobbish women.”
I acknowledge the essential use of the name “Becky,” in reference to white women as stereotypical, but I don’t consider Beyoncé’s lyric racist in the traditional sense of the word.
For obvious reasons, I suspect that white people don’t experience racial stereotyping very often, and when they do, it’s positively connoted. For white people, stereotypes are complimentary, due to the “otherization” of non-white people.
Pop culture celebrates whiteness and the accompanying stereotypes, cycling through sentiments like “stuff white people like,” and “white people problems,” with no mention of white privilege or white supremacy, mind you. All flower headbands, and no self-awareness.
The irony of Iggy’s accusations runs deep. In terms of progressivism, this country and other countries around the world, notably Iggy’s home of Australia, have a long way to go, or else Beyonce wouldn’t have made this album.
As an outspoken supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, Beyonce continues to put her money where her mouth is by featuring Sybrina Fulton, Gwen Car and Lezley McSpadden — the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Eric Gardner and Michael Brown, all black men killed by police.
Iggy’s reaction to Lemonade was knee jerk and an exercise in asserting her whiteness over Beyoncé, a black woman. In doing so, Iggy is demanding reprisal. In turn, attention is diverted away from Beyonce and the socio-political overtones of Lemonade.
Iggy’s accusation is pointed, demanding relief from the very issues that Beyonce is speaking out against, as if to say that white people aren’t the only ones who are to blame.
That sounds an awful lot like victim-blaming or patterned oppression.
Black men and women are losing their lives, and that’s the point Beyoncé and the Black Lives Matter movement are trying to make. Apologizing to white women for a song lyric on an album all about celebrating black women and combating racism, is the least of the singer’s problems right now. Stop interrupting her grindin.’
Natalie Bishop is a Lexington native and a graduate student in library and information science at the University of Kentucky.
Related: April 25 Los Angeles Times article, “Beyoncé takes a fierce stance on ‘Lemonade’”