First, let me just announce that I’m not about to start this article off attempting to find the correct term(s) and adjectives to describe Beyonce’s Lemonade. It would be a reductive process that would only create a distracting debate. If you follow pop music and/or Black culture, you should be very familiar with the long list of superlatives and concurrent critiques surrounding this piece of art. Whether you love it or hate it, it’s hard to ignore the fact that it has galvanized Black women in a soulfully substantial way.
It’s not just about loving a piece of art but connecting with it so much that it fuses its way into the deepest parts of your being.
Some women have openly stated that they would love to see Black men have a moment like what Black women got to experience with Lemonade. And while other great writers have explored who may provide that moment which we definitely have yet to collectively experience, I thought I would take a moment to explore why Black men will NEVER have a Lemonade moment – because it just ain’t gonna happen for a myriad of reasons.
1. Vulnerability & Growth Aren’t What’s Hot In The Streets
Creating a piece of art that is genuinely honest and self-effacing requires one to embrace their faults and the imperfections of their lives, even the parts they have some measure of control over. For a black man to admit to being vulnerable is to open himself to multiple body blows from different angles. It feels like announcing yourself as a potential victim to predators, while also appearing to be incapable of protecting your closest loved ones from mental and emotional pain.
But, also, what of the men who still need to grow? The Black community, both woke and sleep, still subscribe to the problematic ideology that Black masculinity can be viewed through a binary of being fatally flawed or fully developed. For Black men, there is no middle ground for growth. What do we make of the married family man with hotep views? How do we collectively view the player who’s conscientious of Black women’s pain yet too addicted to his own selfish vices to stop hurting them? Do we want to hear about their growth? Or do we want to tell them to go FUCK themselves?
Black men largely aren’t here for Black male vulnerability, and Black women largely aren’t here for providing men safe spaces to grow.
2. In The Black Community, Vulnerability Is A Synonym For Weakness
Hyper-masculinity has become such a staple in our art because Black men have such a historically complicated relationship with masculinity. To overcome that boundary in and off itself in a way that would emotionally connect with the modern Black man might be impossible now that Prince is gone.
3. Our Mental Health Journey Won’t Be A Beautiful Struggle
While the idea of a man having great mental and emotional health is beautiful, the process of getting to that point is ugly. It’s ugly as hell. While I’m not a psychiatrist, I have many friends who work in the mental health field and they can attest to the fact that, for many people, the journey toward’s enlightenment starts in a very dark place. While many find it symbolically stunning to see Beyonce bash out car windows in a golden frock, what’s the equivalent for a hurt Black man disappointed by the Black women in his life?
Y’all really trying to see us walk around being violent and shit? Probably not. What about manifesting our physical temptations into a verbal barrage? Y’all REALLY ain’t trying to hear that shit, especially when that brand of “These Bitches Ain’t Shit Rap” not only already exists, but populates far too much gigabytes on our internet already. The messy process of going from point A to point Z will entail us embracing our ugnliest thoughts with no real conceptualization of moving forward, and THAT’S going to be the problem. Us not handling our pain in a way that is socially acceptable, at a speed that is convenient for Black women, will become a massive problem with attempting to embrace a record that propagates that concept.
4. We Would Spend Too Much Time Defending It, To Connect With It Much Deeper
Let’s be clear here: Black men, especially online, do not live in a bubble isolated from the opinions of Black women. Black women would hear this ‘Black Male Lemonade’ and critique it just as quickly and deeply as we grow to love it (the same way Black men did with Beyonce’s Lemonade.) After being thoroughly combed for any and all of it’s intended and perceived misogyny, the men who cheer it will then accept the creator’s responsibility (or lack thereof) for the creative content.
And, just as any internet fight goes, broad sweeping generalizations will be made and, before you know it, the lines would be drawn in the sand and the battle of the sexes would commence. Lost in all of this would be the seminal moment for Black men to connect and bond over the intricacies, nuances and expressions of the album.
5. We’re Still Searching For What Black Male Pride SHOULD Look Like
And while the Twitter debate raged, like any other online confrontation overly fraught with ignorant statements and severely lacking thoughtful questions, everyone would be concerned with stating how the artist SHOULD HAVE expressed his Black male pride before even asking if we all collectively understand, or agree on, what that should look like in the first place.
Is there a Black man alive non-problematically exudes what you confidently feel Black male pride should strive to be? David Banner? Talib Kweli? Lupe Fiasco? Jesse Williams? Dr. Umar Johnson? President Obama? Hell, can such a multisectional identity even be fully encompassed in one human being?
Those are precisely the conversations we won’t be having, but rather focusing on if the artist hates women because (for example) he had two songs about his screwed up relationship with his mother and one song about his father abandoning him.
6. Black Women Are Under-appreciated
One of the realest statements I’ve ever heard is, “No one supports Black men like Black women. And no one supports Black women like Black women.” There’s a lot of legitimate pain there that Black men are critically responsible for, so when a song is aimed at a Black mother, sister, wife or girlfriend, the narrative of under-appreciation won’t work for the album like it did on Lemonade, but would actually undermine it in a manner that would piss a lot of Black women right the hell off – and rightfully so.
7. Men & Women Haven’t Learned How To Communicate Yet
Men and women are still learning how to talk to each other but, with the advent of texting and social media, we are learning more slowly than ever before. When it comes to talking about our feelings, many men feel trapped between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, women want us to be completely honest, but they also want us to be thoughtful, which sometimes conflicts with a man’s natural response. It’s one thing to say what you mean, but it’s a complete different thing to say it while also being conscious of saying it the way a woman wants you too.
Sometimes it is damn near impossible for a man to be brutally honest WHILE sparing a woman’s feelings, and it’s that incapability that would effectively mar a Black male Lemonade and our collective post-listening “bonding” session.
8. Many Black Women Don’t Want Black Men’s Truth More Than Their Affirmation
There’s some women who read this article, but didn’t take in a damn thing about it. I mean, they let the words pass their eyes, but they didn’t allow the concepts to penetrate their minds or their hearts. They scoured this piece to find places to argue, or to find words, terms and statements that they could use against me and other Black men as a whole – which is exactly how the ‘Black Male Lemonade’ would be received.
Instead of finding the truth in his words and seeing his point of view, he will be largely dismissed as misogynistic and immature for not having said what those women think he was supposed to say about women, family and life. Any attempt that the artist made to extrapolate and universalize his particular personal relationships with relationships in our community on a whole would be met with a significant portion of women feeling personally attacked – which would do no good for anyone.
It feels like Black women would more want to hear a Black man say what Black women already think about their positive traits, as opposed to a Black man’s vulnerable, sometimes non-sensical, emotionally revealing expressions. And, for a group of women who have been denied support too often from the men in their community, that request is understandable.
In truth, Black women needed Lemonade. Whether they loved it or hated it, it’s hard to ignore the fact that it has galvanized Black women in a soulfully substantial way. For a group of women who have faithfully supported Black families at the risk of their own mental, emotional and physical health, this was a small part of the large exhale that they deserve.
Lemonade is your moment.
And, to be honest, I’m good sitting here listening to Kendrick’s “To Pimp A Butterfly.”
This Is Your Conscience