It’s no secret that lots of white people love music made by black artists, but are uninterested in discussions about how black culture is appropriated and how black people are oppressed in America. Beyoncé has been challenging this status quo with her recent music, such as the stunning visuals from Lemonade that reference police violence, and her performance at the Super Bowl honoring the Black Panthers.
Her sister Solange released her album "A Seat at the Table" this year, and it’s a record that celebrates blackness using commentary from her parents on their experiences growing up in the United States and fighting for civil rights. One of her singles, "Don’t Touch My Hair," is an incredibly powerful piece that discusses the way white people intrude on the bodies of black people, as a larger concept, and also in the common everyday micro-aggression of reaching out to literally touch a black woman’s hair. Apparently, her inspiration for this work came from a controversy that swirled way back in 2013.
The Huffington Post reports that Solange appeared on Q2 Music’s “Helga” podcast on Monday, and discussed how three years ago, she suggested that white music critics should know more about black artists. She was invited on a New York Times podcast and declined, but the host John Caramanica referenced her anyway. Another guest on the show, also white, stated, “I went to Solange’s concert and I noted who her audience was, and if I were her, I’d be careful of making these statements because I’d be careful not to bite the hand that feeds me.”
Solange said that hearing herself discussed this way made her feel they were implying an “ownership” of herself and her art. She says, “That was kind of the turning point in the transition for me writing the album that is now A Seat at the Table. I began to think a lot about that conversation and replaying it, and it haunted me. And it haunted my mother to hear someone telling her daughter ‘don’t bite the hand that feeds you.’ And also the racial subtleties—[that] are not so subtle—of what that encompasses when you say that to a black woman. Then you connect it by saying ‘Do you know who’s buying your records?’ So I was essentially being told to shut up.”
Solange also referenced “biting the hand” on Instagram on Thursday.
It’s clearly not a theme she’s done with, which is great. A Seat at the Table is an incredible album, please let there be more to come.