After a week of police killings, Beyoncé has updated her website with a full-page letter on the topic of black lives—the respect they deserve and the violence they continuously endure. The pop superstar’s response to the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile reads in full:“We are sick and tired of the killings of young men and women in our communities. It is up to us to take a stand and demand that they ‘stop killing us.’ We don’t need sympathy. We need everyone to respect our lives. We’re going to stand up as a community and fight against anyone who believes that murder or any violent action by those who are sworn to protect us should consistently go unpunished. These robberies of lives make us feel helpless and hopeless but we have to believe that we are fighting for the rights of the next generation, for the next young men and women who believe in good. This is a human fight. No matter your race, gender, or sexual orientation. This is a fight for anyone who feels marginalized, who is struggling for freedom and human rights. This is not a plea to all police officers but toward any human being who fails to value life. The war on people of color and all minorities needs to be over. Fear is not an excuse. Hate will not win. We all have the power to channel our anger and frustration into action. We must use our voices to contact the politicians and legislators in our districts and demand social and judicial changes. While we pray for the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, we will also pray for an end to this plague of injustice in our communities. Click in to contact the politicians and legislators in your area. Your voice will be heard. —Beyoncé”Clicking on the front page of Bey’s official website no longer brings you to a menu boasting tour dates and merch. Instead, you’re given the option to contact your member of Congress or voice protest for Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. It’s a pragmatic and powerful approach, the exact strain of activism we’ve come to expect from one of the hardest-working, most inspiring voices in pop music.
The gesture’s power was amplified only minutes later, when news broke that the singer had paused her Glasgow concert to ask for a moment of silence for the victims of police brutality, flashing their names on a giant screen behind the stage.
While it might have taken white America a few decades to realize that Beyoncé is, in fact, black, Ms. Knowles was already well aware. She has never hid her blackness—those who claim her politics are just for show clearly haven’t been paying attention. When Trayvon Martin was killed, Beyoncé brought Jay Z along to a rally. Mr. and Mrs. Carter also donated $1.5 million to a collection of civil rights groups on the fourth anniversary of the Florida teen’s death. When Black Lives Matter activists in Baltimore and Ferguson were locked up for protesting police brutality, the couple wired tens of thousands of dollars to help them post bail, specifically asking the protesters not to publicize their contributions. And Beyoncé’s Formation world tour will benefit the #BeyGOOD initiative to address the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.Millions of dollars aside, Beyoncé’s biggest contribution to the Black Lives Matter movement has been her work, which reaches an unfathomably large, trans-racial platform. Since her self-titled visual album, Beyoncé, the singer has been dropping allusions to anti-racist activism. In 2015, she released Take My Hand, Precious Lord: The Voices, a short documentary featuring interviews with her backup singers discussing Ferguson, Eric Garner, and being black in America.Of course, Bey’s politics only started making headlines with “Formation,” her electrifying single, released in the form of a music video dripping with black imagery and racial commentary. As the biggest name in pop music waxed poetic about her Jackson 5 nostrils, accompanied by a bevy of black women in formation, images of police in riot gear and post-Katrina New Orleans flashed across the screen. And when Beyoncé performed her new track at the Super Bowl, she broadcasted black excellence and Black Panther iconography straight into the heart of white America.Lemonade, Beyoncé’s subsequent visual album, proved itself to be an even fuller and more pointed meditation on what it means to be a black woman in America. Serena Williams and Amandla Stenberg shared the spotlight with the mothers of Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown. It was an unparalleled example of black excellence in mainstream pop culture, produced by and for black women.
Anyone who has ever seen the news once knows that America is anything but post-racial. Beyoncé would have never achieved the degree of mainstream success she has—or created the kind of platform she now uses to preach—if she had made her Destiny’s Child debut in a Black Panther outfit. Her gradual introduction of overtly political material into her oeuvre doesn’t make her fair weather woke—it just makes her a whole lot smarter than the rest of us.