For many of us, music—especially live music—offers a reprieve from life’s daily stressors. But an essay penned by Solange Knowles demonstrates that even the most famous people of color can endure racist policing of their joy in otherwise empowering settings.
The essay documents the younger Knowles sister’s experience of attending a concert by pioneering German electronic act Kraftwerk with her family in New Orleans over the weekend. She starts the piece by poignantly listing various instances of racist microaggressions—things that seem harmless to perpetrators, yet trigger harsh reminders of marginalization to those who experience them:
It usually does not include "please." It does not include "will you." It does not include "would you mind," for you must not even be worth wasting their mouths forming these respectable words. Although, you usually see them used seconds before or after you.
You don’t feel that most of the people in these incidents do not like Black people, but simply are a product of their [W]hite supremacy and are exercising it on you without caution, care, or thought.
Many times the tone just simply says, "I do not feel you belong here."
Knowles then describes the concert, during which her 11-year-old son and his friend were admonished for smoking an e-cigarrette when it was actually two White men in front of them. Later, a group of White women yelled at her and her family to sit down:
You want to be considerate, however, they were not at all considerate with their tone, their choice of words, or the fact that you just walked in and seem to be enjoying yourself.
You are also confused as to what show you went to. This is a band that were pioneers of electronic and dance music. Surely the audience is going to expect you to dance at some point.
Later, she was hit with a lime. Solange tweeted about the incident, and acknowledged knowing "that a part of the population is going to side with the women who threw trash at [her]." She closed by putting the incident into the context of her bigger life:
You have lived a part of your life in predominately White spaces since you were a kid and even had your 3rd grade teacher tell you "what a nigger is" in front of your entire White class. You watched your parents trying to explain why this was wrong to her and learned then it can be virtuously impossible to get your point across.
After you think it all over, you know that the biggest payback you could have ever had (after, go figure, they then decided they wanted to stand up and dance to songs they liked) was dancing right in front of them with my hair swinging from left to right, my beautiful Black son and husband, and our dear friend Rasheed jamming the hell out with the rhythm our ancestors blessed upon us saying….
We belong. We belong. We belong.
We built this.
Read the full essay here.