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Response to Beyoncé shows how far we still have to go

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 23/02/2016 Dale Hansen

Police across America have decided enough is enough. They are tired of being held accountable for their actions are have decided the best way to clean up their image is to boycott pop singer Beyoncé. The Miami chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police said the reason for the boycott was because Beyoncé "used this year's Super Bowl to divide Americans by promoting the Black Panthers and her anti-police message".

How very mature of the police union to suggest that because Beyoncé, in their eyes, had used the Super Bowl to divide the country, they would in turn further divide the country by boycotting her performances. If we were having this discussion on an elementary school playground, such a childish response would be expected, but we are talking about the people who are tasked with public safety. This is a group that has taken an oath to protect and serve. If their goal was truly to unite the country, they would have come out with a statement that the police shootings referenced do not represent them or their members; and, while they disagree with this portrayal, they support Beyoncé's first amendment right to free speech and would love to sit down with her to discuss her view on how police departments across the country could bring all Americans together.

After all, many people who are outraged by Beyoncé's performance and video are the same people that have called on black leaders to fix black on black crime or for Islamic leaders to denounce Islamic terrorism. Why do they not hold police officers to the same standard? Data show that, despite comprising only 13 percent of the population, African Americans represent 32 percent of the people shot and killed by the police. Even if all of these events were completely justified, which seems unlikely given video footage, the optics are clearly troubling and should be addressed in a very public fashion.

Of course the bigger problem is the hypocrisy of those who are bashing Beyoncé. For example, the conservative media has complained for years about African Americans who turn every situation into a racial incident, yet these same people were falling all over themselves to claim that the 'X' formation made by Beyoncé's backup dancers was a reference to Malcolm X. Maybe that was the case or maybe it wasn't, but for a group that wishes African Americans didn't see everything in terms of race, assuming a dance formation symbolized a departed black leader is an astounding double standard. It should also be noted that the very next formation was an arrow. Was this also an homage to another black activist, or is it possible that these white people are hypocritically seeing race where there is none?

Even if the entire performance was a reference to historic black leaders and groups, is there a problem with that? February is black history month, so paying tribute to those who fought against injustice and violence towards their community shouldn't be seen as an attack on whites as much as honoring past civil rights leaders. We as a country celebrate those who fought for this country and protected it from tyranny, yet we label those in the African American community who spoke out against undeniable oppression and occasionally turned to violence, as a means to protect themselves, as terrorist.

If the mere threat of violence is enough to condemn people, then we should be similarly outraged by the NRA who's member routinely suggest they will exercise their second amendment right against the authorities if they try and take their guns away. We should be outraged by the churches that advocate for the death of homosexuals because that's what the good book tells them they should do. We should be outraged by the spike in patriot hate groups that see the government as the enemy and have organized to kill police officers. We should be outraged at the free loaders who pointed guns at federal officers.

It may just be a coincidence that it is mainly white people who defend the threats of violence from white leaders and organizations yet denounce those same threats when it comes to black leaders and organizations, but the duplicity in reactions and the inequality it creates is part of the reason that many in the African American community continue to speak out.

There is perhaps no better example of this issue than the recent debate over the confederate flag. Despite the fact that the flag didn't fly over the South Carolina State House until the height of the civil rights movement, many white southerners feel this represents their heritage and are willing to ignore the vicious history it represents; yet when it comes to African Americans honoring their heritage and far less violent struggle, these same people are somehow offended.

The reality is that the U.S. has a long and shameful history of mistreating African Americans that data show continues today. Trivializing this fact while hypocritically feigning outrage at the slightest acknowledgement of the African American experience only serves to divide us further.

The problem here is not that Beyoncé chose to publicly celebrate her culture and comment on what challenges still remain, but that so many others refuse to accept any responsibility for their part in creating an environment where race is still an issue.

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