Liberal Writer Matthew Walther Goes Off on Jay-Z, Beyonce, and the NFL, and He Even Says ‘If You Want to Listen to a Real Queen, Listen to This’

Illustrated | AP Photo, Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for Disney, vchal/iStock, yopinco/iStock

If there is a single micro-genre of American journalism more nauseating than the “Jay-Z and Beyonce woke discourse circa 2007-2019,” I can’t think of it.

Why exactly we settled on these two billionaire entertainers as the embodiment of progressivism is utterly beyond me. There was never anything revolutionary about “Woke Queen Bey.” Her weird 2010s monarchist turn was the will-to-power artfully packaged for 20-something Teen Vogue editorial assistants; lyrics like “I see it, I want it, I stunt, yellow bone it / I dream it, I work hard, I grind till I own it” are essentially Randian. (If you want to know what a real queen looks and sounds like, listen to this.) The fact that there is even an appetite for this kind of thing among left-of-center people says more about where liberal democracy is headed than it does about the people who have profited from it. As for Jay-Z, his — gag me — “feminism” is about as sincere as you might expect from someone who got rich mouthing along to lines like “In the cut where I keep em / Till I need a nut.” Even within the somewhat insular world of wealthy rap power couples, the actual substance and effectiveness of their political activism is put to shame by Mr. and (especially) Mrs. Kanye West.

All of which is to say that I can’t believe anyone is actually surprised, much less upset, by Jay-Z’s recent partnership with the NFL on racial issues. (I am using the noun “partnership” because on its face it is impossible to give any meaningful summary of his actual responsibilities as “live music entertainment strategist.”) Nobody bats an eye when Rush Limbaugh says things like “I think we’re past kneeling.” Why should anybody be surprised when the guy who did “Big Pimpin'” tells us the same thing? Of course he’s “the NFL’s black boyfriend.” He’s been upper-middle-class white frat bros’ black boyfriend for two decades now.

Even more baffling is the response from conservatives. You would think that they would be the first to dismiss the cravenness and stupidity of the whole enterprise. Instead America’s foremost opponents of so-called “victim culture” have decided that Jay-Z is, in fact, a victim here. As Jim Geraghty wrote in National Review recently under the headline “Jay-Z Joins the Ranks of the Insufficiently Woke”:

In the eyes of the African-American, social-justice Left, any NFL partnership with Jay-Z, any roundtable discussions, and any public-awareness campaigns are mere window-dressing to obscure their past unjust actions and viewpoints, injustice best exemplified by the treatment of [Colin] Kaepernick. The more the NFL does to try to win over these critics, the more those critics will loudly denounce those efforts as a bad-faith or cynical public-relations effort. In this mindset, social justice means Kaepernick playing again, and any outcome without that element cannot constitute true social justice.

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SOURCE: The Week, Matthew Walther