I think it’s fantasy that we can recoup the violating image and use it. I used to get so tired of people quoting Audre Lorde, the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house, but that was exactly what she meant, that you are not going to destroy this imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy by creating your own version of it. Even if it serves you to make lots and lots of money.
I’ve really been challenging people to think about, would we be at all interested in talking about Beyonce if she wasn’t so rich? Because I don’t think you can separate her class power and the wealth from people’s fascination with her. Here is a young black woman who is so incredibly wealthy, and wealthy is what so many young people fantasize, dream about, sexualize, eroticize, and one could argue that even more than her body, it’s what that body stands for. The body of desire fulfilled, that is, wealth, fame, celebrity, all the things that so many people in our culture are lusting for. If, let’s say, Beyonce was a homeless woman who looked the same way, or a poor, down and out woman who looked the same way, would people be enchanted by her? Or is it the combination of all of those things that are at the heart of imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy?
And I’ve [been] saying, people of color, we are so invested in white supremacy, it’s tragic… I say to my students: Decolonize. But there’s also that price for decolonization. You’re not gonna have the wealth. You’re not gonna be getting your Genius award funded by the militaristic, imperialist MacArthur people. And I’m not saying anything negative about the people who receive those awards, but there is a price that comes with decentering, decolonizing, and part of what has to happen for us to be free is that we have to create our own standards of how to live.”