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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: The Exploitation of Beyonce for Political Agendas

Singer Beyonce performs on the opening night of her "Mrs. Carter Show World Tour 2013", on Monday, April 15, 2013 at the Kombank Arena in Belgrade, Serbia. (Frank Micelotta/Invision/AP)
Singer Beyonce performs on the opening night of her “Mrs. Carter Show World Tour 2013”, on Monday, April 15, 2013 at the Kombank Arena in Belgrade, Serbia. (Frank Micelotta/Invision/AP)

 

(Time) – Whether she’s being defended or criticized, she’s often treated as a symbol in service of a sinister agenda.

Every year during awards season — which seems to last longer than the NBA season and have more flagrant fouls — outrage is expressed over those who are snubbed. In typical shoot-from-the-lip fashion, Kanye West on Sunday night denounced Beck winning the Album of the Year instead of Beyonce. “I just know that the Grammys, if they want real artists to keep coming back, they need to stop playing with us,” he threatened. “We ain’t gonna play with them no more. And Beck needs to respect artistry and he should’ve given his award to Beyonce.”

There are several obvious things wrong with that outburst, including that it’s an insult to Beyonce as an artist and as a woman. But, more important, it once again highlights the monumental significance of Beyonce as a cultural icon that goes beyond her music. When we look more closely, we can see that whether she’s being defended or criticized, she’s often treated as a symbol in service of a sinister agenda.

Let’s start with Kanye’s misguided comments.

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