NEW BLOG - Matthew "AntiFrantik" Carter's "MuddYork Express": Cam, Bey, and
As the Superbowl wound down towards its conclusion, my emotional funk was already in full swing. As with most ultimate sporting events, the final narrative was undeniable, almost perfect: the grizzled war horse, having persevered through a season fraught with hardship, rides off into the sunset in the best and most rewarding way possible. For me, however, this unfortunately wasn't the near-perfect narrative I was hoping for.
The young, gregarious quarterback prevails in the ultimate contest, finally throwing aside and overcoming all of the incessant, thinly-veiled racism he's had to wade through throughout his entire career. Having witnessed Cam Newton and his irrepressible happiness -- and having witnessed the backlash this happiness had generated -- this was the narrative I had hoped and prayed would come out of Superbowl 50.
Alas, this was not the case, and, even though I realistically didn't have any skin in the game, I felt cheated out of a certain affirmation. I felt as if a Carolina Panthers victory was the result America needed, the one that would have catalyzed a collective soul-searching -- a look into the mirror, if you will. Instead, the result gifted us with a propagation of the status quo, and more attacks on Cam's character, questioning how he conducts himself as a person, player, and a leader.
For me, this all began with a letter. Rosemary Plorin, a mother and Nashville Native, penned an open letter to Cam Newton following the Panthers' road victory against the Tennessee Titans. In it, she chastised Cam's "in your face" antics, his dancing, and his overall "conduct". She was, in fact, so scandalized that she directed her daughter's attention to the cheerleaders and the mascot.
The fact that, in the eyes of this woman, the cheerleaders -- these scantily-clad, gyrating, exploited women -- were less of a controversy than a quarterback simply having a good time spoke volumes to me. The fact that she couldn't explain Cam's actions -- his very personhood -- to her daughter indicates to me that this may be a personhood she has yet to even recognize.
This is a problem other quarterbacks -- white quarterbacks -- never at all have to face. Aaron Rodgers, Carson Palmer, and Philip Rivers are all examples of white quarterbacks known for celebrating gregariously after touchdowns. In each case, their rowdiness is lauded as an expression of their competitive spirit, and is therefore and subsequently exalted. That Cam Newton is generally not afforded the same treatment exemplifies how the behaviour of Black men and women is often held to a different standard, one that works to constrict and minimize Black expression. Cam, however was having none of that. Through all the condescending open letters, through all the accusations of his "fake smile", the Panthers quarterback, much to his detractors' chagrin, continued to outwardly express his happiness and joy for the game. When people were clutching their pearls and literally telling him that he could not, and should not, behave in a certain way, Cam brushed the policing aside and continued to unapologetically be himself. He continued to celebrate himself, his team, and their success with a radiance that was, frankly, glorious. I wanted the Carolina Panthers to win the Superbowl for this reason. I yearned for it.
Unfortunately, they instead succumbed to the suffocating Denver defence, leaving the door open for a surging influx of criticism levied against them and their quarterback. Through it all, however, Cam remained steadfast, maintaining that his harshest critic would always be himself. He has yet to apologize for anything, and he remains a role model simply for this fact alone.
Joining Cam Newton at the Superbowl was Beyonce Knowles, who set the world ablaze with her new song & video "Formation". The single is, unabashedly, an open celebration of Blackness and African-American culture. At the Superbowl half-time show, Bey took it one step farther, having her dancers conspicuously dressed as members of the Black Panther Party (BPP).
Pearls were immediately clutched on an international scale. The song, video, and performance were, by some groups, quickly deemed anti-cop and anti-white, and calls for protest and boycotts sprang up across the United States. Even back home here in Canada, Jim Karygiannis, a Toronto councillor, called for a federal investigation into the diva in response to her Superbowl performance.
There's a lot to unpack here. For starters, that the "Formation" video was labeled as anti-white and anti-cop is, frankly, disappointing. At no point, either in the lyrics or the visuals, are white people or police offices even mentioned, let alone disparaged, in any way. This marks the latest in a endless litany of examples of how a de-centering of the majority is viewed as offensive.
Simply because Beyonce decided to not invite white people to this particular party, the entire endeavour was seen as a slight against them; complimenting and celebrating Blackness is then, by definition, interpreted as a denigration of whiteness. Like most oppressing and privileged groups, there exists an inherent fragility within whiteness that rears its ugly head whenever the conversation shifts, and their power and influence is contested or disregarded.
A perfect example of this is how the BPP has continually been compared to the Klu Klux Klan, when anybody armed with Google should be well aware of the preposterousness of such an assertion. The KKK is renowned for the raping, killing, and terrorizing of Black folk; the BPP, on the other hand, uplifted and cared for Black people with meal programs, schools, and health care, and protected their own resolutely. That the killing of Black people has continually been equated to the protection of Black people -- that both these activities are seen as terrorist acts -- conspicuously illustrates exactly how skewed and unbalanced the conversation has become.
Throughout it all, Beyonce remains unbothered. Outside of a world tour announcement, there have been no statements from her camp. She, essentially, left us with a simple comment within the song "Formation" itself:
"You know you that bitch when you cause all this conversation."
Truer words have never been spoken. Bey, along with Cam, provided a shining example of what it looks like to revel in your Blackness in the face of rabid adversity. Through their actions, they have shown how simply loving yourself is, even in 2016, still a revolutionary act.
Matthew "AntiFrantik" Carter | Twitter: @AntiFrantik | IG: @AntiFrantik