Colorism creates relentless tension and pressure in the lives of Black women. Pop-star Beyoncé Gisele Knowles-Carter is an interesting case in the discussion of colorism because her career has expressed a rich intimacy to Southern Black culture and female empowerment while also playing into tropes of the mulatta “fancy girl,” whose relative proximity to whiteness adheres social value within mainstream culture. Finding aesthetic and thematic parallels between Beyoncé’s recent project Lemonade (2016) and Julie Dash’s cult-classic film Daughters of the Dust (1991) I draw a critical connection between Yellow Mary Peazant and Beyoncé, the prodigal child and the licentious “post-racial,” pop-star to argue that while Lemonade may not present the same critique of exclusionary Black womanhood present within Daughters of the Dust, reactions to the Beyoncé’s visual album and the “Formation” music video inadvertently demonstrate the longevity of harmful colorist prejudices and the disparaging of Black female sexual and creative agency within the Black community. This article engages conflicting reactions between the “Formation” music video and Lemonade visual album, as well as some of Beyoncé’s earlier works, to consider the continued role of colorism, as it intersects with racism and sexism, to construct exclusionary notions of Blackness that attempt to restrict the expressivity of those considered “outside” of Blackness. Through a barrage of specifically Black feminist conjurings, Lemonade draws upon the legacy of Daughters of the Dust to break through the colorist barriers placed upon the Black female body while practicing diasporic melancholia to link the trauma of the past and the struggles of the present to articulate grievances and express desires for improved Black future.
Davis, C. (2018). From Colorism to Conjurings: Tracing the Dust in Beyoncé's Lemonade. Taboo: The Journal of Culture and Education, 16 (2). https://doi.org/10.31390/taboo.16.2.04