Written: Winter 2016/’17
Published by: The Other Journal
A sign of the times, outrage followed the February release of Beyoncé’s “Formation” music video and her performance at the Super Bowl 50 halftime show. Critics claimed both were “anti-police,” pro-Black Panther, and “inciting bad behavior,” presumably against law enforcement. The next week, NBC’s Saturday Night Live released its own critical response to the backlash Queen Bey faced (particularly from the white community) in the form of a farcical movie trailer: “The Day Beyoncé Turned Black.” Panic ensues in this mock disaster movie as white people fear that their other favorite stars will also reveal themselves to be black—black, meaning no longer agreeing to assimilate to the dominant white culture.
In the SNL sketch, a white woman in a cubicle drops her earbuds after listening to “Formation” for the first time: “Guys, I don’t understand this new song.” A coworker responds, “Maybe this song isn’t for us.” The woman then replies with the most groan-worthy line of the sketch: “But usually everything is!” SNL, in its signature humorous-yet-poignant fashion, reveals the absurdity (and sad reality) of appropriation in America: we’ll claim Beyoncé as our own only as long as she remains culturally palatable and, therefore, white.2 This sentiment of maybe this isn’t for us drives the central question of this paper: to what extent is black theology, like Beyoncé’s music, for us—us being the white church—and in what ways is taking on black theology yet another way to disingenuously consume or appropriate black culture?