Identity

Jay-Z, Solange and Beyoncé: Rewriting 99 Problems

JaySolangeBey Rewriting 99 Problems Feature Photo

It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman. ~ Proverbs 21:19, KJV

I don’t follow celebrity gossip… normally. However, when the elevator video leaked with Shawn Carter aka Jay-Z getting attacked by his sister-in-law, Solange Knowles while his wife, Beyoncé stood nearly motionless in the corner looking on, I was disturbed. And like many others, I had an opinion. My thoughts weren’t centered on what Jay-Z did or did not do to deserve to get kicked and punched by his wife’s sister. The question looping in my mind was: What would cause a woman to stand by while her man was being physically attacked by anyone, much less her baby sister?

It was a question that truly troubled me. More disturbing were comments I read on various websites across the internet insisting that Beyoncé couldn’t smear her image by interfering in the one-sided brawl. These commenters were in effect stating that some things were more important than the husband/wife relationship between Shawn and Beyoncé Carter (reasons people gave as a possible (and, in their opinion, acceptable) explanation for a Beyoncé not coming to her husband’s aid when her sister physically assaulted him in front of her in that elevator) were:

  • Her dress was expensive, she couldn’t risk damaging it
  • Her face, image, brand were more important than her relationships she couldn’t risk getting a mark on her or smearing her make-up while she was in public
  • A bodyguard was in the elevator, he’s paid to step in during such altercations

Such sentiments provided a very discouraging view into the mindset of the public in the midst of their consumption of a pop culture episode. I know we have become a very superficial nation but can anyone really believe that a husband is not worth a dress to a woman? His honor is worth less than a good make-up job and a photo-op? Defending your man is not worth your effort because you pay someone to do that?

In all the years I’ve listened to and communicated with women, I have never once encountered one who would allow someone to speak an unsolicited cross word against her man – even if she had just run him down to the person. Now, some would perhaps allow certain folks to repeat or reinforce what they’ve said about their man, but don’t let that person try to come up with new dirt or their own dirt because then they become suspect. In a similar manner, this episode had me looking at Solange like: How do you have a bigger beef with your sister’s husband than she does herself? What’s really going on?

The headlines read: “Jay Z attacked by sister-in-law”, but the story to me was “Woman stands aside to watch her sister attack her husband”.

Stranger danger

Years ago, while walking home on a dark night, a violent scene unfolded before me two houses away from my own front gate. At the time, I lived on a quintessential Harlem street, lined on both sides by beautiful, well-kept brownstones. I saw a young man on a bike being chased by about five other young men wearing black jackets with hoods. They were headed in my direction. About mid-block, the chasers caught up to the rider and knocked him off his bike. The young man went flying onto a car hood and then slid to the ground. As I watched in horrified bemusement, the group of young men chasing him circled him and started kicking and punching him.

I pulled my eyes away from the macabre scene about fifteen feet away from where I stood to look up and down the block. It was a dark night even with the street lights.

I was looking for cameras. My street was a popular setting for television shows and movies.

I didn’t see any cameras but the fact that I looked for them first says a lot about how much I’ve been acclimated to seeing violence as entertainment as well.

I walked closer to the frenzy of punching fists and kicking feet and asked in a quiet voice, “Excuse me, are you really doing this in front of me?”

In other words: Is this real? I couldn’t believe people would so blatantly commit such a violent act in front of a bystander.

This may sound very self-absorbed, but I don’t mean it to be: my humanity was offended. As a human being, I was deeply offended that a group of human beings thought it was okay to abuse another human being in front of me. How dare them subject him and me to that sort of abuse?

The whole group of five attackers looked up at me with stunned faces, then they immediately turned around and ran off. I helped the young delivery man up, sat him on a stoop then called a neighbor to come out and assist, followed by a call to police.

All that to say: Many people will assist strangers with no regard for themselves. I’m thinking  The aid you provide your spouse should be much greater.

I don’t want to become so immune to violence, that watching a video of someone getting attacked is dismissed as celebrity craziness, family drama, things-other-people-do-therefore-it-has-nothing-to-do-with-me. If I can’t be horrified by the abuse of one person, how can I possible care about the abuse of hundreds, thousands or even millions if the abuse of one doesn’t make me cringe and put an end to it?

Vicarious superficiality

Jake-Gyllenhaal-Jay-Z-Beyonce-Meme-467Family fights are nothing new. What is new is the public’s ability to see inside private lives. More disturbing than Beyoncé smirk after watching her husband get beat up by her sister is the public’s response to it as entertainment.

What the comments on social media and websites I was deeply saddened by the public treatment of a marital relationship but I guess I shouldn’t be surprise. The worship of celebrity culture treats everything celebrities do as entertainment. There is no real value in entertainment because entertainment is not real. Unfortunately for those being developed by, or taking their cues from, popular culture via social media and entertainment vehicles, there is an assumption that the transient or interchangeable unreality of celebrity lives is something to mimic in their lives. Most people won’t admit that directly. Most people would say they prefer realism in their own lives… even while they project something else.

There was very little to no value, honor or appreciation for the husband and wife relationship. All the focus was on the sister/sister and sister-in-law/brother-in-law relationships – those relationships dominated that space. Had there been no knowledge of a marriage between two people on that elevator, no one would have guessed that was in fact the case.

I am not suggesting that celebrities need to be more real so they are better role models for the people who idolize them. That’s not my message. To me, this incident became a social commentary on marriage in general in America or at least in certain communities. For example, people commented that “family comes before marriage” therefore Beyoncé had to stand by her sister. What I understood from the predominant attitudes commenting online was that image, brand, beauty, and wealth are all more important than our support, or lack thereof, for our spouse. If one is fortunate enough to be a pop star, then one does not have to honor one’s spouse at all.

That’s a very sad commentary, indeed.

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