Although it was my initial instinct to write a nice little note to white college students about prudence in choosing Halloween costumes, since most of the parties happened last weekend, it seemed like an irrelevant post. Instead, I will wait for a photo gallery on the HuffPo and pretend to be appalled. So this morning, I’ll briefly consider another kind of racial performance. That’s right, Beyonce in whiteface–sorta.
In case you missed it, Ms. Knowles-Carter released her third video in as many weeks last week. This time, it was the visual for the jam, “Party.” The original, featuring Kanye West and 3-stacks, is so dope, mostly for phrases like “You got the swag sauce, you drippin’ swagu,” and “Black like havin’ yo’ cousin back.” Gems of genius, really. This video version denies us the pleasure of seeing Ye and Dre kick with Bey and replaces them with that dude, J. Cole, who apparently forgot to read the “Don’t ever try to fill in Dre’s footsteps–ever,” memo. But that’s not why I’m writing. Here’s the clip:
Dude, has anyone ever been more omniracial than Beyonce?
That’s not a rhetorical question. What struck me most about this clip wasn’t the J. Cole appearance or how the video should’ve first hit the internets in the summer–I guess Beyonce is so powerful she can ward off Chicago winters with a wind machine and by releasing a video about her having a barbecue in August–but that Bey is on her trailer trash chic in it. Seriously. This video reminded me of a couple of Drew Barrymore movies–and Seraph on the Suwanee.
There’s something about Bey pacing a mobile home in rollers that seems to access whiteness in ways that her selling make-up doesn’t. We’re somewhat used to light-skinned black women telling us about blush, but seeming so racially transcendent, so omniracial that one can appropriate a stereotype reserved for poor white people, Hurricane Katrina notwithstanding, while singing a song so deeply indebted to 1980’s r & b? Inconceivable! #ThePrincessBride
All of the blurbs I’ve read about this video talk about the trailer park aspects of the video, but really don’t think about how that milieu is rooted in lower-class whiteness. That’s kind of remarkable to me. After all, this is an environment that monitors Beyonce’s skin game like the soror with the brown paper bag at the door of an Alpha Kappa Alpha meeting. Then again, perhaps I infer too much. Still, I can’t shake the impression of how white Bey seems in this video. And the fact that most of us have said nothing? Well, perhaps she’s more omniracial than anyone has ever been. Ever.