Thirty-two years in the game and seven studio albums later and her haters just keep on coming.

Thirty-two years in the game, seven studio albums, 28 Grammy awards and 79 nominations, winner of the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, declared the first lady of music by renowned music executive Clive Davis and the accolades spin on from there. Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter is a Black woman of success, determination and talent.

To see a Black woman celebrated at the height of her career, as Beyoncé is now, defies the works of racists and misogynists, and bullies alike.

The cover for the new release featuring the scantily clad singer regally posed atop a silver, glowing horse indicated that she might bare more than a well-toned thigh with "Renaissance."

On July 29, Beyoncé released her latest project titled “Renaissance.” Put simply, “Renaissance” is the work of a woman past the point of refinement in her craft — she is a master. Her ability to modify her vocals by slurring, commentating, rapping and singing through drum basses, strings, West African interludes, ballroom phrases and tempos and more, is nothing short of a gift for listeners to experience.

The album’s tribute to the LGBTQIA community, particularly the Black LGBTQIA community, at a time of legal dehumanization is energizing. It is dedicated to her Uncle Johnny, who was gay and passed away due to complications with AIDS. The project features LGBTQ+ musical icons such as New Orleans’s Big Freedia — the bounce artist, who she collaborated with in the past on “Formation” — Honey Djon, Kevin Aviance, TS Madison and more.

With the release of the album came the antagonists. Musical artist Diane Warren tweeted, “How can there be 24 writers on a song?” — a question unexpected from a seasoned artist, who should understand crediting samples and interpolation. I doubt Warren would be phased while listening to “All By Myself” by Celine Dion; a song with samples from Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto No. 2 In C Minor.” But this sort of close eye inspection and hypercriticism towards the works of Black women is nothing new. It’s the scarlet letter we all bear simply due to a darkened complexion and internal genitals.

During a Trump campaign rally in Macon, Georgia, in 2020, Sen. David Perdue mispronounced Vice President Kamala Harris’s name, using a mocking tone. “​​The most insidious thing that Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden are trying to perpetuate, and Bernie, and Elizabeth and Kamala-or-Kamala-or Kamala-mala-mala. I don’t know whatever,” Perdue said. Then there was Olympian Gabby Douglas, who was villainized for having an imperfect hairstyle while competing. Rather than her skill set, her appearance made headlines.

Serena Williams, of the United States, waves to the crowd after losing 6-4, 6-0 to Emma Raducanu, of Britain, during the Western & Southern Open tennis tournament Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022, in Mason, Ohio. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

The riddle is easy — Black women reach for and attain success and criticism rises up. In 2018, Deadspin reported Serena Williams was drug-tested, “more than twice that of other top American women’s tennis players” and “more than any of the top five American male players.” Track and field sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson is called less of a competitor for using marijuana but Megan Rapinoe is featured in Forbes for CBD. The bully will find every reason to allow the success of everyone else, but there must be a flaw in the Black woman, even if the flaw is of one’s imagination.

Enter Beyoncé — one of the most notable Black women in the world. To a bully, this is a reality entirely unlivable. With “Renaissance,” there was the issue with Kelis and the ableist term, then there were all the irrelevancies.

“Break My Soul” was the lead single of the project and was received with joy for some and vexation for others. “Now, I just fell in love, and I just quit my job. I’m gonna find new drive, damn, they work me so damn hard,” sang Beyoncé. The song was an introduction to the feeling many of us held deep during the pandemic; to scream, dance loud and feel even louder. When Big Freedia, said to “release your job” and “release your wiggle” they were synonymous reminders to breathe and let go.

The record instead sparked rumours Beyoncé was tricking working-class people into leaving their jobs — as if she is the reason for the #GreatResignation. TikTok user PeoplesOracle’s video titled “Beyoncé is not your friend,” was impassioned and shared she was “disappointed” and concerned the labour movement would be derailed by this one record. But, it was the motivator many of us needed to continue the movements concerning the TikToker.

Non-Black artists are free to express and protest in their music. Jessie Ware’s song “Free Yourself,” released July 19, 2022, goes, “You are a name, not a number, extraordinary colours, don’t ya hide undercover, baby.” Then there is “Aye,” released 2021, by musical artist Sam Fender, which goes, “They don’t act up for the camera, they just sit back and command them, and collect and deflect and abandon.” If music is a creative release for these artists, why not Black women as well?

The Malcolm X May 1962 speech comes to mind. Malcolm X said, “Who taught you to hate the texture of your hair?” as he spoke to a crowd of Black people and discussed racism and its effects on Black women. He continued, “Who taught you to hate the colour of your skin? To such extent you bleach, to get like the white man.” With concern and assurance, Malcolm X went on to proclaim, “The most disrespected person in America, is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman”; a statement Beyoncé would use in her previous project.

Society insists Black women bear the burden of progress, turn to us for trends and inspiration, but then shame us in our attempts and praise it in others. Our existence powers your livelihood and drains us of our humanity. During the era of her album “Lemonade,” Beyoncé was accused of profiting off the pain of Black peoples, critiqued for her visualization of New Orleans and crowned the leader of a bubbling anti-police (really anti-racism) movement. At a similar moment when Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp A Butterfly” was being upheld as the rhymes of the Black Lives Matter movement, Beyoncé faced pushback for expressing those same sentiments. Sentiments Black women had spoken of first, before they hit the mainstream — word to Tarana Burke, the original creator of the “Me Too” movement.

The attempts to reduce Beyoncé and her accomplishments certainly did not start today. As with any Black woman, the degradation has been in front of our eyes all along.

When Beyoncé was pregnant with her first child, Blue, there was a fervent campaign to make us think she was pretending after her maternity dress appeared to collapse during an interview. Despite the cause being that of a loose-fitting dress, photos of her belly were spread, headlines were printed and the gossip continued.

Bllue Ivy with dad Jay Z and mom Beyonce.

There were then the rumours of Beyoncé being egotistic. In 2013, ahead of Beyoncé’s groundbreaking Super Bowl performance, a British tabloid claimed she made “diva” like requests for her daughter and herself, such as rose-scented candles and a luxurious backstage nursery. The tabloid published this statement from an unnamed source: “She’s by far one of the most difficult celebrities we’ve ever dealt with. The list [of demands] is as long as my arm… She may be a superstar, but this day is about football, not her.” NFL VP of Communications, Brian McCarthy, refuted this. He called the claim “pure pulp fiction,” according to BET.

And how can we forget the Illuminati — the secret devil worship society Beyoncé and her husband are rumoured to be part of. Members of the Illuminati are said to sell their souls in exchange for outstanding success, yet, this reasoning disappears for the likes of Jordan Belfort (whose criminal run on Wall Street was immortalized in the Leonardo DiCaprio movie “The Wolf of Wall Street”), Jeff Bezos or Donald Trump — a man whose boasting of great wealth and excess landed him in the most powerful seat in America.

The trailer for Beyoncé’s “Lion King” inspired film titled “Black Is King,” featuring songs from her curated soundtrack “The Gift,” dropped two years ago. The trailer was short, a little over one minute long, and featured a young Black boy manoeuvring through life into adulthood, as Simba did. The trailer highlighted the story of Africa, the motherland, and its beliefs and cultural garments would be at the forefront of the film. The trailer kickstarted Twitter’s 100th (maybe 101st?) diaspora war and critiqued Beyoncé for either showing Africa through a Western lens or not showing all its 54 countries.

One individual the Washington Post spoke to, Ruth Chikuma, said of the trailer, “‘There is so much more to Africa than lions,’ she said, ‘and painting our faces white.’” But, we do paint our faces white during ceremonies, we do dawn geles and we do live in villages (some with huts). “Black Is King” showcased Africans dancing in the middle of busy streets, our judges sat in rows in Nigeria, our clubs as lit as we know them to be and estates we know there to be (amid the wealth inequality striking the nation). The film showed the path from which we began, to where we evolved in modernity and where we will return.

Some of the critiques held weight — it is true Africa is a land with more than lions; a land of dazzling city streets, futuristic fashions, high rises and more — while others simply were a result of an inherent disdain for Beyoncé. “Black Is King” was as well-rounded as a story based on “The Lion King” could be, and was curated with African creatives, yet, it was not enough. Beyoncé once again faced heavy criticism that all but died down when the film dropped.

But that’s the kicker. When it comes to Black women, our presence is often enough to justify the hate.

Black women are told to be docile, quiet, weak but strong — we can never break but we must allow others to try to break us. We must hate our hair as it grows from our scalp, risk a slow death with chemicals in hair relaxers and repeatedly change our appearance so as to remain relevant, beautiful and commodifiable — Black women must be dehumanized and willing to change based on what society requires of us. And even if we do all this — smile only, straighten our hair and parade in white spaces — we still will be tried and tested, just as with the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle.

In “Renaissance,” Beyoncé is free and twirls (hey Kenya Moore) past the negativity of years past; “Monday I’m overrated, Tuesday on my [business],” she rapped. She defies what the Black woman is in the eyes of the bully; which is either in service to misogyny or a keeper of racism.

This then helps explain why critics of Beyoncé come across the spectrum. She sings for the independence of women as she dawns lavish outfits she lets you know she purchased herself, and this angers the misogynists — the Andrew Tates of the world. She sings against the mistakes of her husband, as in “Lemonade,” sharing his missteps with her fans, and this angers women stuck under the whims of men — the pick mes as the internet calls them. She raps about a world without hyper-policing and racialized structures, and this angers the capitalists and the racists.

Hatred of the self bleeds throughout the world due to white supremacy — this includes misogyny — and it equally bleeds into Beyoncé, whose messaging sits at this axis.

In this handout photo provided by A.M.P.A.S., Beyonce performs during the ABC telecast of the 94th Oscars on March 27, 2022, in Los Angeles.

Beyoncé speaks of her accomplishments and dismisses what others define as success — she raps, “This Telfar bag imported, Birkins, them [things] in storage” on “Summer Renaissance.” Telfar, founded in 2005, is a Black owned fashion brand by queer designer Telfar Clemens. The lyric was a subtle mention but was quick to anger the Hermès collectors of the world. One TikToker named ericasgirlyworld, went viral for her opinion on the matter, in which she is stunned anyone could compare a Black designer like Telfar to Hermès. It proved the point Beyoncé sought to make; Black fashion made accessible for all — as is mission statement of Telfar — is seen as lesser than by collectors of fashion items they deem exclusive. Black women aren’t allowed to be exclusive; what is ours is theirs and what is theirs can never be ours.

Beyoncé knows, not unlike herself, Black fashion, Black art, Black wisdom, Black beauty, Black education, Black accolades and more, are degraded by systems that guide us. In uplifting Telfar she does to them what she does for herself; she taps out of the rat race and realigns the competition to be for us — Black women and Black peoples — and by us.

I understand the absurdity of defending a billionaire while the world burns. Beyoncé is also a mature woman more than capable of coming to her own defence, but this is not a defence of Beyoncé. It is a reminder of the ways bullies will antagonize and dehumanize Black women to remove us from the spectacle of mega success. Beyoncé has been in the game since she joined the musical group Girls Tyme in 1990 and has worked tirelessly since then. Certainly, the burdens of a billionaire are different than that of you and I, but the racism and misogynoir stay the same.

A bully’s greatest breeding ground is one of confidence and triumph in the face of tribulation. I pray “Renaissance” is her bully’s greatest feat yet.


Conversations are opinions of our readers and are subject to the Code of Conduct. The Star does not endorse these opinions.

More from The Star & Partners