Dear White People Who Write Things: Here's How To Write About Beyonce's Lemonade

Columbia Records
Columbia Records

Yesterday, to culminate one of the two or three Blackest weeks of my lifetime, Beyonce debuted Lemonade, a beautiful, haunting, brilliant, and Black as all the fucks hour-long visual rendering of her new album. The album, also titled Lemonade, was made available on Tidal (sigh) when the film concluded.


Naturally, this film and the album dominated pop culture last night, and will continue to for the coming weeks. And people who write about these types of things for publications will be compelled to do so. Some of these people will be people who happen to be White. And, if you are a person who happens to be White, and you're compelled to write about Lemonade today or some time this week, here's a few tips on how you should go about doing it.

1. Don't

This is the easiest strategy to employ. If you consumed Lemonade last night and you need to write a news piece about the release, or perhaps something about how it dominated Twitter, or maybe a review of the album itself, please go ahead! Be my guest!

But if you consumed Lemonade last night and you feel particularly compelled to offer an assessment or deconstruction of the appropriateness of the incorporation of Warsan Shire's words, or how Serena Williams' twerking signals the beginning of a new post-feminist meta anti-feminism, or why Jay Z seems preternaturally obsessed with Beyonce's ankles, or how it all connected to #BlackLivesMatter (please, please, please don't do this), or which messages Lemonade conveyed about Black fatherhood, or Quvenzhane Wallis's hair, take a step back from your keyboard, take a deep breath, say "Nah," and go take a walk or something.

Of course, your words and thoughts matter. #WhiteopinionsaboutLemonademattertoo. But at this specific moment, this is when you take your take and sit on and/or swallow it. Instead, use this opportunity to take a step back and consume the dozens of takes and pieces from smart and sharp Black writers and pundits and critics. If you say you can not find one, you are a lie. Because they are literally everywhere. I tripped over a Michael Arceneaux piece about it on my way to the bathroom this morning.

And, if you believe you don't have a choice in the matter because you work at a publication and you were asked to offer your thoughts on what Lemonade means, guess what? You do have a choice! You can say no! And you could even use this opportunity to be a true White ally and recommend one of your Black colleagues for the assignment. And if you don't have any Black colleagues, this is when you say "Hey, maybe we should reach out to Alex Hardy or Eve Ewing. They both had interesting thoughts on Twitter last night, and I'd love to see what they'd say in 1200 words." And if you don't know any cool and smart Black people like that, 1) REALLY? WHY THE FUCK DONT YOU? and 2) WHY THE FUCK DO YOU EVEN THINK IT'S OK FOR YOU TO WRITE ANYTHING ABOUT THIS IF YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW ANY COOL AND SMART BLACK PEOPLE?

This may seem unfair, racist even. But trust me. It is not. Ultimately, it is for your own protection. Because if you do dare offer a take on what any of it meant, and you get anything wrong — especially if it's wrong in a specifically tone-deaf, "this White person just went full White person" way —  you will feel the wrath of tens of thousands of perturbed niggas with degrees raining fire, acid, Kendrick quotes, and chicken grease on your face, and it will not be pretty.


2. Wait

After a few days or perhaps a week has passed, and after you've read dozens of the smartest and sharpest assessments and deconstructions of Lemonade written by Black people, and you still wish to offer your own analysis, you can go ahead now. Because now, after you've consumed and learned from those pieces, you're (presumably) able to offer a more nuanced and thorough take. Perhaps you can even cite the specific pieces you read, using quotes to lean on when a point is articulated in a way you wouldn't have thought to.


And don't worry about writer FOMO, because this is freakin Beyonce's Lemonade. Which means that, until Beyonce releases a part two — which'll probably be titled Simply Raspberry Creole Lemonade — Lemonade takes will continue to be relevant.

If you happen to be a White person who writes things and you happen to be reading this, I'm flattered that you spent part of your Sunday reading this. Thank you! Now back the fuck away from your screen, close your laptop, go to brunch, take a walk with some friends, and spend the rest of the day watching the NBA playoffs and Game of Thrones.


You can even drink some actual lemonade! Just don't deconstruct it.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)


Dustin John Seibert

I maintain that Beyoncé is not nearly as substantive as she wants you to think she is. Powerful imagery does not a powerful mind make. This is basically "Formation" magnified. Don't pull Bey in a conversation with black sociologists and intellectuals…she wouldn't be able to hang for long.