Why do some people act as if Beyoncé eats with her feet?
I read Beyoncé’s recent and increasingly rare interview with Elle magazine, in which she discussed her new Ivy Park activewear collection in addition to answering questions about feminism, race and police brutality. I found it rather standard for Beyoncé, or any celebrity of her stardom, for that matter. Others, however, expressed shock and awe that she managed to form short, coherent statements.
About feminism, Beyoncé made comments like, “If you are a man who believes your daughter should have the same opportunities and rights as your son, then you’re a feminist. We need men and women to understand the double standards that still exist in this world, and we need to have a real conversation so we can begin to make changes.”
And when asked about those who protested her “Formation” video, Houston’s finest noted: “I have so much admiration and respect for officers and the families of officers who sacrifice themselves to keep us safe. But let’s be clear: I am against police brutality and injustice. Those are two separate things. If celebrating my roots and culture during Black History Month made anyone uncomfortable, those feelings were there long before a video and long before me.”
It’s not as if she broke down critical race and feminist theories in the Q&A, so why in the hell is anyone surprised by these not especially complicated sentences? I’ve seen some of my writing colleagues insinuate that perhaps her public relations team answered the questions for her. This was an echo of the sentiment expressed two years ago when Beyoncé’s essay “Gender Equality Is a Myth!” was published by the Shriver Report.
In that essay, Beyoncé wrote: “We have to teach our boys the rules of equality and respect, so that as they grow up, gender equality becomes a natural way of life. And we have to teach our girls that they can reach as high as humanly possible.”
Watch out, Toni Morrison, or nah?
Even if Beyoncé did have someone gussy up her essay, she wouldn’t be the first person to do so—celebrity or otherwise. We live in a nation where, if the proper use of “whom” were a choice that could end or life or death, a sizable portion of the U.S. population would immediately drop dead. So if you really want to talk about what is or isn’t dumb, I wouldn’t be aiming my dart in the direction of a pop superstar with a growing empire on which she has relentlessly proved to have a tight grip.
I’ve always found this “Beyoncé is some sort of simpleton” narrative to be painfully ignorant and remarkably dubious. Sure, after LeToya and LaTavia left Destiny’s Child and Beyoncé launched a solo career a few years later, she did noticeably become far more cautious in how she answered questions. That doesn’t necessarily say anything about her level of intelligence.
Well, actually it does: It speaks to a young artist very shrewdly dodging any controversy to make sure you didn’t turn her into Diana Ross before she’d even landed a successful solo album. I also believe she keeps the press at bay to avoid having done to her what was done to Michael and Janet Jackson in terms of the tainting of their legacies.
Other factors contributing to this false narrative are steeped in stereotyping her Southern drawl, which, for me as a fellow native Houstonian, is music to my ears. Just because some think she speaks like a bamma doesn’t mean she writes or thinks like one. There is also the fact that she is a pretty woman, and there’s nothing some people love to do more than underestimate the intellect of a very attractive person—particularly if it makes them feel better for everything else they lack in their own lives.
Yet you don’t get to be where she is without some significant level of intelligence. I hate the parsing of any person based on something like how they speak. I happen to find someone like Cardi B of Love & Hip Hop: New York and social media fame to be smart. I know people with advanced degrees who are not nearly as astute about their jobs and career progress as she is about hers.
I refuse to judge anyone’s intellect solely through arbitrary standards developed by people with very little regard for anyone with a darker hue. Some can continue to think that Beyoncé is not smart, but until they single-handedly change the entire music industry and manage to command the kind of coalition she has developed as a black female entertainer and singer, I’ll keep inviting them to shut their dumb asses the hell up.
Michael Arceneaux hails from Houston, lives in Harlem and praises Beyoncé’s name wherever he goes. Follow him on Twitter.