Commentary

The New Meaning of ‘Lemonade’

Lemonade is no longer what you think it is. What was once merely a cool and refreshing beverage to sip on is now a powerful rally anthem for black female empowerment. Released last Sunday, the “Lemonade” album describes Beyoncé’s thoughts on the lack of respect she and many other black women are forced to face. The hour-long visual album, which debuted at No. 1 on the “List of Billboard 200,” explores a series of important themes, like oppression, self expression, and racial identity.

“The most disrespected person in America is the black woman,” Malcolm X’s voice layers over one part of “Lemonade.” His statement remains true both in America and on our own campus. Black women and girls are always at the “bottom”rung of society, discriminated against and oppressed for our gender and racial identity. Homicide – done by a former partner – is currently the second most common cause of death for black women between the ages of 15 to 24 in America. A Google search of the words “black woman” returns a Wikipedia article titled, “Angry Black Woman” as one of its first results. I speak from personal experience when I say that many black girls and women are told from a young age that we have to try twice as hard to be considered half as capable and competent. We spend unquantifiable time and energy trying to catch up, to prove ourselves, to be more than a Wikipedia page.

Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 3.53.30 PME. Wu/The Phillipian

As a young black girl, I learned to put up with people who touched my changing hairstyles and made insensitive jokes about my racial identity. I always felt as though I needed to be extremely cautious with my actions and words if I wanted to ensure that nothing I said or did could be misconstrued to fit the negative stereotypes that have been assigned to black women. I used to obsess over avoiding phrases that could be interpreted as “salty,” “mean,” or “sassy,” words that have come to be synonymous with the stereotypical black woman, out of fear that those labels could be used to discount me as a person, to distill me into a satirical caricature or supporting character. I used to force myself to smile at every person I saw on the path in an attempt to not seem aggressive, angry, or too intimidating.

Even now, I don’t wear sweatpants on campus out of the fear that doing so would fulfill the black stereotype of looking “sloppy” or “unpresentable.” I have found that even at Andover, black women and girls like me are forced to alter what we want to say and do so that we do not fulfill the limiting stereotypes that white people have confined us to.

I cannot speak for the other black female students at Andover, but “Lemonade” has connected me with another part of myself. Like Beyoncé, I am tired of the mistreatment and lack of respect black women receive. Listening to her album, with each song and visual shot, I began to feel the physical and emotional strength, sisterhood, and solidarity of black women, past and present. Beyoncé’s album showed me that black women can break this vicious cycle of mistreatment by drawing courage and confidence from one another, accepting ourselves wholeheartedly, and absolutely refusing to apologize for who we are. This is no easy journey, as we live in a world that continuously tells us to change to fit white standards and norms.

I implore the Andover community to understand that Beyoncé’s new album was more than just a series of songs to add to a summer playlist, and deserves immense appreciation from black and white people alike. “Lemonade” is both a series of songs used to express the struggles of black women and an incredibly important and empowering rallying call that gives strength to those, like me, who truly need it.

May 6, 2016