“In the last album — that was like love and relationships in its best form, and here she’s talking about the actual challenges that come with that,” Rolling Stone writer Michael Arceneaux tells NPR’s Michel Martin.
And Arceneaux notes that, through it all, Beyoncé’s work demonstrates a significant respect for spectacle — nowhere more so than in Lemonade.
“A lot of artists now don’t particularly care about the visual and it’s just the song,” he says. “But I think Beyoncé really genuinely appreciates how everything is supposed to work together in unison to have a larger impact.”
But don’t make the mistake of comparing her to another performer with a knack for spectacle, Michael Jackson; Arceneaux says Beyoncé actually shares much more in common with Janet.
“Because I think with Janet Jackson, she was able to talk about racial identity, her sexuality, gender and queerness, all these different things,” Arceneaux says. “As much as I love Michael Jackson — I’m named after Michael Jackson — Janet was a bit broader in her themes throughout her career.”
I was never shielded from anti-black racism, its overt ugliness, its subtle nastiness, its shared intention to make me feel small. Yet, I was cautioned to never allow someone else to define how I felt about myself. In essence, to the white people reading this, I was not raised to care all that much about what you thought of my black ass.
It is a lesson that has stayed with me for my entire life. It is a value instilled in me that has done wonders for my psyche as a black man living in a nation majorly shaped through the lens of white supremacy and governed largely in the practice of institutionalized racism. Knowing there is an ingrained prejudice in society does not make me feel inferior by default nor does it compel me to center whiteness. That is why when it comes to one lingering strain of critique related to “preference,” I find myself frustrated.
I understand the frustration. I get that this is a longstanding issue. I know that people should make sure bigots know they cannot cower behind the false pretense of preference. I even accept that preference does not necessarily equate prejudice in some cases.
Nevertheless, I am so sick of reading and watching black men complain about white men not wanting them sexually.
When it comes to tackling the relationships between gay black men and gay white men, to only discuss in the context of sexual attraction is insulting to both and can often have damaging consequences in the narrative. Last fall, The Advocate published a piece titled “Is Gay Dating Racism Creating a Black HIV Crisis?” To his credit, author Daniel Reynolds did ultimately speak to someone from the CDC who denotes other factors play a larger role.
However, why even center the black male HIV crisis on the affections of white men? Especially when you factor in that in December 2013, the New York Times published a report, “Poor Black and Hispanic Men Are the Face of H.I.V.” which examined factors behind higher HIV rates among poorer Black and Latino men. In it, they detail how the failure of health organizations to reach both groups are largely responsible for our higher rates. We are less likely to take drugs before having sex and no more likely to engage in risky behavior, but we do have less access than our white counterparts.
Working within a smaller pool can be problematic, but the issue of racism and how it burdens black men ought to be more focused on institutional issues (poverty, mass incarceration, lack of access to education, health services, etc.) than these hollowed conversations flooding my social media feeds every couple of months. Why be so focused on the “preferences” of an idiot? Why continue to make whiteness the center of world and perpetuate this notion that we have to belong?
A photo posted by Michael Arceneaux (@youngsinick) on
While scrolling through various social media feeds, I often abruptly pause to yell, “Your ass is lying!” at my phone screen whenever I see someone I know telling the tallest of tales. Between the filters, thirst traps, and inspirational quotes, the package presented before you online rarely looks the same IRL.
I’m in constant fear of mirroring these kinds of people, and frequently wrestle with how much I should share in public spaces.
“Keep your business to yourself” is a lesson I learned around the time I still ate Lunchables and wore cartoon-themed underwear. I intuitively understood how people could use your personal problems against you, so I never wanted to publicly present myself as a complainer. Besides, there’s already enough of that in the world, both online and off.
Like many others, I struggle to balance being honest while protecting my privacy. There are certain things I keep close to the vest: my fears, my uncertainties, whatever keeps me up late at night. There are parts of myself I’m not always willing to share—and I’m not alone in this approach.
Recently, there have been various reports about those—most notably college students—who feel pressure to appear happy online. But it’s not an issue limited to young adults.
I cave in to this pressure, too.
More and more, I’m approached by friends, relatives, and fans of my work who tell me how amazing my life seems. To write for a living is not without certain drawbacks (i.e. chasing checks, dealing with private student loan lenders); it requires a lot of discipline to not only create, but also maintain, a regular workload. I love writing, but it’s hardly a glamorous existence.
You may see me on this program or read my work in that publication, but I’m not live-tweeting my phone calls with student loan lenders, or posting Instagram pics of myself trying not to cry and curse after hanging up. You don’t see me coming down from a caffeine high, exhausted and daunted by all the work still left to be done. You don’t see me seething with envy as I look at other people’s photos documenting their Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous-esque antics. Even when I do feel proud, sometimes the sight of someone else’s adventures on social media will put a damper on my feelings of accomplishment.
I am in a rather peculiar time of my life. I am not exactly where I want to be, but in many respects, I am closer than ever to certain dreams. And yet, I still struggle with the reality that these are dreams people like me not rarely get to pursue because we can’t afford to. Literally.
I am fortunate in that I have managed to create a living centered on sharing my opinion. All I have ever wanted to do is to make people laugh and to make people think. I do that now and slowly but surely, doing that via the platforms I want to exist and thrive in. And yet, that required a lot of sacrifice. It also required the generosity of parents who may not have had it to give, but found a way to do so anyhow – particularly my mother.
It also required student loan debt, which has been the bane of my adult life. I, like many millennials, turned to private student loan lenders to fund my education. The education that I needed to get closer to what I’ve always wanted. The sizable monthly payments mirror a mortgage and the stress I have endured to pay those payments has stressed me to the point where I have overworked myself to exhaustion. Where I have literally blacked out. Where my hair has fallen out due to stress. To the point where strange rashes have broken out all over my body because I was literally killing myself worrying so much about work and making sure I paid every single bill hovering over my head.
I have struggled with this burden for several years now and it has admittedly dimmed my views of what constitutes as success. Recently, I was asked to participate in a feature for millennials who have managed to achieve certain feats in their respective careers despite the weight of this debt dragging them down. And now, at the age of 31, I find myself being told by those younger than me that I am someone to be admired. Likewise, those who do know me and know how hard I work, ever so increasingly tell me that they are proud of me.
It makes me uneasy. I don’t know how to feel. There are moments when I fall immediately to my knees and look up — ideally to a higher being that actually exists —for the blessings that are happening. Yet, there are moments where I literally wish I could cry over the pressure. I am not much of a crier; it is hard for me to often get the tears out. Nevertheless, the desire to is telling enough.
Lately and more frequently, these days have blended into one.
Had the pleasure of once again doing Smart Ass Pop Culture Feminist Clique duty on Janet Mock’s SoPOPular last Friday, talking Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Nicki Minaj. We also discussed Meryl Streep and whether or not 2015 was the year of identity. My hands are still waving like I’m performing “Touch My Body” and “Breakdown,” but it gets better.
In the past, my dating life was a mix of Frank Ocean’s Bad Religion and the sadder Mary J Blige songs that you can somehow still dance to. And yet, things have slowly but surely gotten better – a direct result of me making important changes. As I’ve gotten older, I have been more vigilant about noticing the signs that a man might be a loser and promptly taking the exit ramp.
This includes things like never dating a man who doesn’t know how to use “your” and “you’re” correctly. I don’t want to be a snooty writer, but I also don’t want to invest in flirting with a person who didn’t pay attention in third grade. Similarly, though it may be a struggle, I will try my best to avoid checking a guy’s social media feeds before actually getting to know him. It’s like looking at a person through a filter that’s not as favorable as he thinks it is.
But the one I most adamant about sticking to – and I have encouraged everyone I know to act accordingly: I will never date another person who does not like Beyoncé.
If there is one mistake I made repeatedly in the past, it was looking past this fatal flaw. Of all the men I’ve dated, the worst have all disliked Queen Bey.
I am a gay black man from Houston, Texas. Beyoncé is my Lord and gyrator. She is the beginning, end and body roll to me. I should have known better than to ever bother with such haters.
Before I started rejecting Beyoncé haters, I first tried dating some men with the fatal flaw by avoiding the subject. More than once, one tried to pick a fight with me about Beyoncé. They knew I bow down to Queen Bey, but they tried, still, to coerce me into standing on the wrong side of history. Remember that New York Times review of her debut album entitled: “The Solo Beyoncé: She’s No Ashanti?” Who wants to end up sounding that ridiculous?
However, as an original member of the #Beyhive (its editorial director, if you will), I’ve long known that some people will fight a good thing. So I gave some men the benefit of the doubt, thinking that I could help them blossom into Beyoncé lovers – starting with the B’Day album. Because seriously, how can you not like Beyoncé? To me, if you don’t love Beyoncé, you don’t love yourself. You don’t have to be a super fan, but if you don’t like at least five Beyoncé songs, I don’t trust your judgment.
That sounds crazy to Beyoncé deniers, whom I refer to as Beythiests.