Has Beyoncé been co-opted?

In an article posted in Black Agenda Report called, “Beyoncé and the Politics of Cultural Dominance,”  editor and columnist Ajamu Baraka comments on the artist’s performance at the Super bowl and writes,  “Beyoncé and her dancers perform in pseudo-Panther gear, pretending that resistance to the state is a matter of fashionability.  It is incredibly naive to think that anything subversive or even remotely oppositional to the interests of the capitalist oligarchy would be allowed expression on a stage that it controlled.”

I’m not in particular agreement with the writer. He has an interesting viewpoint, and it’s very cogent, but he seems to characterize capitalism as a sin that everyone has agreed is not to be cooperated with or indulged in. We’ve all been somehow dragged into this mess against our will. It’s this attitude that we’ve all been co-opted, a view that has permeated the left since I got involved in politics in the sixties. It also has merit, but you can’t overlook the fact that all of us are, whether we like it or not, part of the system and collaborate wholeheartedly with every bit of its capitalism. It’s not just a matter of shopping at Wal-Mart. What did you decide to do when you decided to go out and make a living? You didn’t decide, or shit, this is capitalism. You decided, this job pays better than that job, so this is the one I take. That’s not being co-opted. To be co-opted, one has to have had some other option that was a cultural prerogative prior to being co-opted. Unless you joined The Farm in Tennessee, you chose to immerse yourself in the system, and you didn’t have a goddam inkling that you could live any other way. Not if you wanted a middle class condo and at least a two-year-old car with some extra money for daycare. What is is what is. Those discussions in college about Marx and Engels were interesting, but it doesn’t have much to do with the way we live.

Besides, to criticize Beyoncé and Bruno Marx for having been sucked into some kind of commercialization of a serious issue in order to de-fang it is garbage. The author hasn’t a clue about where the idea originated for this production, who produced it, and why. Creating art out of protest is as old as protest. The Black Lives Matter movement has been a star feature of black protest for more than a year, and it is a spear that has been thrust into the tough hide of our consciousness. it is a perfect subject of art, and I thought that the performance was excellent.

For those of you who haven’t seen it,  here’s the link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_Hgh7sPDLM


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