Watching Beyoncé’s Lemonade is like riding an emotional rollercoaster—the kind where you refuse to get off and the Six Flags employees have to forcibly remove you. While any viewer of Bey’s new visual album is sure to feel all the feels, from awe to joy to sadness to let-me-find-a-boyfriend-so-I-can-break-up-with-him-real-quick, some of the emotional cues and most intimate narratives are reserved exclusively for black women. As well they should be. So, while on some of its levels we can all enjoy Lemonade, it’s almost impossible to fathom a white woman signing on to her HBOGo and basking in the splendor, only to immediately decide, “Oh, let me make this about me.”
But, of course, that’s exactly what happened. And not just any white woman: “Igloo Australia,” FKA Iggy Azalea, who has been under fire for just about her entire career for cashing in on her culturally appropriative rap style and downright racist sensibilities.
The disgraced rapper, who clearly doesn’t follow Rachel Roy—or Rachael Ray—on Instagram, actually chose to insert herself in the conversation surrounding “Becky with the good hair.” That lyric comes from one of Lemonade’s new tracks, “Sorry,” in which the singer flaunts her knowledge of her husband’s infidelities, taunting that he “better call Becky with the good hair.” While the line has been interpreted as referring to a singular shiny-haired lady, designer Rachel Roy, the combination of the “Becky” moniker and the mane mention paints a portrait of a white side chick, and invokes a history of black hair (and black beauty’s) deliberate erasure at the hands of Eurocentric beauty standards.
Going off of the slang use of Becky as shorthand for a generic white woman or valley girl, Azalea entered the fray by tweeting (and then deleting): “Don’t ever call me Becky. Generalizing ANY race by calling them one (sic) sterotypical name for said race ... I personally don’t think is very cool, the end.”
Even after social media backlash, the rapper refused to back down, replying to one angry tweeter, “Girl BYE. Do you know how many time ppl have called me BECKY? It didn’t have any kind of positive intention behind it. Don’t start.” Luckily, Azalea’s own boyfriend stepped in before anyone had to call Nicki Minaj to teach another white girl a lesson in racially solipsistic, uninformed tweeting. While he later claimed that he was hacked, Nick Young’s iconic addition to the twittersphere, “I love my Becky but she be tripping lol,” is some truly Lemonade-inspired inter-couple shade.
While Iggy Azalea eventually backtracked, insisting that, “No, I don’t think Beyoncé is racist nor do I think calling someone ‘BECKY’ is the same as a racial slur,” her argument against “generalizing any race” through a name stinks of reverse racism. Reverse racism is the entirely fictitious belief that you can be racist toward a white person. Basically, think of “reverse racism” as the answer to the age-old question, “What do you get a race that already has everything?” Because of a little something called a bloody history of racism and colonization, the world is essentially built for white people. This results in a myriad of undeserved perks, ranging from an unquestioned assumption of innocence, to Macklemore winning the 2014 Best Rap Album Grammy. In addition to all of these privileges, some white people have decided that they also want the right to be able to accuse people of being racist…toward white people.
Justin Simien, the writer and director of Dear White People, easily dismantles the reverse racism and/or white microaggressions myth: “Prejudice and racism are different. A joke about white people dancing has no impact on the lives of average white people, whereas jokes about black people and reinforcing stereotypes about black people do have an impact on the lives of everyday black people.”
Racist jokes and stereotypes reinforce structural systems of oppression; being called “Becky” doesn’t pack quite the same punch (unless you’re actually Jay Z’s Becky, in which case… good luck). At the end of the day, Iggy Azalea ends up looking pettier and more ignorant than ever—like the 13-year-old white boy from Long Island who starts whining when someone tells him he can’t say the N word. It would have only taken one iota of self-reflection and awareness from Iggy to open her eyes and realize that Lemonade is not about her. Did Bey stutter?