Beyoncé delighted many people—Beyoncé fans, low rider fans, and Red Lobster fans among them—when she surreptitiously dropped the video for “Formation” back in January. However, the video, which is steeped in references to Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, has not been without its detractors, some of whom have claimed the video’s imagery promotes anti-police sentiment. But in a new interview with Elle, Beyoncé makes it clear that that message is being projected onto her work by people who don’t understand it.
The “Formation” video features Beyoncé atop a police car that’s slowly being submerged, as well as shots of a graffito that reads “Stop Shooting Us,” and a scene wherein an unarmed black boy dances in front of a line of riot-geared police officers. These tableaux aren’t all that reminiscent of any N.W.A. songs, but when combined with Beyoncé’s Super Bowl 50 performance, which featured back-up dancers outfitted in Afros and berets in a nod to the Black Panthers, they set off an anti-Beyoncé movement (which floundered for support in New York City).
When asked about the video and the ways in which it’s been interpreted, Beyoncé heads off the anti-police sentiment talk in the interview by saying she has the utmost respect for law enforcement. She and Jay Z have shown support for Black Lives Matter by donating to the movement, but here she clearly speaks out against the racial disparities in the criminal justice system, telling Elle that she’s “against police brutality and injustice.” The complete quote, in which she also promotes the video and song’s pro-black sentiment, is below, and the interview is here.
“I mean, I’m an artist and I think the most powerful art is usually misunderstood. But anyone who perceives my message as anti-police is completely mistaken. I have so much admiration and respect for officers and the families of officers who sacrifice themselves to keep us safe. But let’s be clear: I am against police brutality and injustice. Those are two separate things. If celebrating my roots and culture during Black History Month made anyone uncomfortable, those feelings were there long before a video and long before me. I’m proud of what we created and I’m proud to be a part of a conversation that is pushing things forward in a positive way.”