Before we get started today, I need you to become familiar with the concept of “Becky.” If you just woke up from a coma, Lemonade came out a few weeks ago. What is Lemonade you ask? Well you dweller of the underside of rocks, it is the new release from Beyoncé. Both visual and aural, the album has sparked a lot of conversation among the socially progressive. While the question about just how autobiographical Lemonade is remains a mystery, it is ostensibly about a woman dealing with every stage of betrayal at the hands of the one she loves. The album has A LOT more to say than just how to deal with betrayal and infidelity, and today we will focus on the “Becky.” In Lemonade, when referencing infidelity, Beyoncé sings the line:
“He only want me when I’m not there / He better call Becky with the good hair.”
As someone who hates her hair, I will not endeavor to weigh in as to what ‘good hair’ is or is not. Nor will I go into a long meandering post about why the term “Becky” was used to describe a supposed mistress. There has been a lot of talk from segments of the population that claim “Becky” by itself engenders a racial slur against white women.
“Becky” is NOT a racial slur. Beyonce could have easily said “the Bitch with the good hair.” But then that would give voice to an anger that we already knew she felt. Instead, she could have used the term “Becky” to signify that the person whom she has given her soul and loved for years cheated on her with someone the complete opposite of her. That is just one interpretation, mine. And for the record, the extent of which Lemonade is autobiographical vs how universal it is should also be examined. Read about the history of “Becky” here; and why it is not a racial slur here (spoiler it is an archetype). But just to emphasize the point, when I say “Becky” do you think of a disenfranchised lot of people who have to
- Overcome systemic racism to do the simplest tasks (ex: get a job, go to school, affordable housing)?
- Continue to prove their right to hold a certain position was earned rather than bestowed (ex: the President of the freaking United States, the new Mayor of London)?
- Endure discussions about ‘reverse racism,’ ‘affirmative action,’ #AllLivesMatter when trying to give voice to the dis-empowered?
- Even think about these issues on a daily basis?
I am going to stop right there. Because any other bullet gets the same answer: No.
What “Becky” does evoke is the image of a [lone] basic woman, probably wearing lululemon and tweeting about the Khartrashians, while sipping on her pumpkin spice latte. At least to me it does. In the late 80s, early 90s, “Becky” probably evoked a woman with the biggest hair, adorned in the most acidic of the acid wash denim, gum snapping, sunglass wearing girl walking the mall in neon keds. This is not to say an archetype can’t be racist, but in this case it is not. Because the term “Becky” does not intone hundreds of years of disenfranchisement or violent suppression or fighting to have a voice heard. “Beckys” do not have a subculture dedicated to encapsulating their life experiences, expressing their struggle, finding humor, or celebrating triumphs. A “Becky” is still a member of the mainstream. The term “Becky” does not call to mind a group of women nor does not seek to re-brand all women with a ‘pejorative’ term.
Unlike the word N*gger.
A Becky’s biggest flaw is her privilege. What is the biggest offense to being called “Becky?” Being thought of as basic? Will a Becky get shot over her basicness? Will people look at a Becky and make a decision that her basicness compromises their safety and walk on the other side of the street? When you see a Becky walking her tiny dog, do you instinctively lock your car doors? When you see a Becky in the office do you wonder how she got there? I mean women have their own problems in the workplace, let alone minority women. When you see a Becky walking around a neighborhood do you assume she is casing it for a robbery and call the cops? When Becky wears her Ugg boots do people assume she is nefarious and shoot her to protect their personal safety? When a Becky is killed by random (or targeted) violence, is there a likelihood her killer will walk free? Conversely, if Becky commits a crime, will she get the maximum sentence? Please do not misunderstand me and think I am saying that women have it better than men. I am simply stating that I am tired of hearing that “Becky” is a racial slur. Cultural slur, probably. I am sure the rest of the world considers all of America filled with Trumps and Beckys the rate we are going.
I would like to think that my life motto is ‘you do you and I will do me and hopefully we live our best life.’ But I cannot understand what the movement to reclaim basic and Becky are. Have these terms been around for hundreds of years causing irreparable harm to their applicable community that they needed to be reclaimed? Or is it just a need to be a part of something larger than yourself? Fine if it is, but can the Beckys of the world suffer in silence? I am really trying to find empathy, and I have been struggling with this for a while, but I just can’t. Unless you were a 7 year old girl, new to America being called sand n*gger by your THIRD GRADE classmates (something that would be repeated in college, both incidents without consequence for the racists) or asked if your people are cannibals and having your name being made fun of so much that when you changed schools you went by “Paige” because you didn’t trust it wouldn’t happen again, feeling fear for the safety of your brother and father when traveling in a post 9/11 world, and my new favorite – getting the surprised look when speaking unaccented English while wearing Indian clothes in public, I don’t think you know what those who live with racism on a daily basis actually experience. I cannot tell you what to do to not be a Becky or whether you already are one, but I am politely asking that you don’t say that ish to my face. Because unless you experience racism and see what privilege is, you have nothing to say I want to hear. In turn, I will not use the term Becky (unless that’s your name).
Everyone should be engaged in discussion regarding racism and privilege, that is the only way real progress will be made. But if you are out there getting offended about things that don’t exist, or are trying to fit in to a struggle that does not include you, be prepared to get checked. Stay in your lane, but never get out of formation.
Things keeping me sane this week: It’s Laura’s birthday tomorrow! Happy birthday to one of my dearest friends. Just thinking about how awesome she is as a lawyer, wife, mother, and friend warms my cold dead heart (to the extent that it can be warmed). She has helped keep me sane over the last 10+ years, so she gets a special shout out in this section. I love you Laura, happy birthday, insert all the mushy stuff here. Thank you for being my friend.