'Formation' Doesn't Include Me. And That's Just Fine

02/08/2016 12:46 pm ET Updated Feb 08, 2017

Yesterday, in a moment she perfectly choreographed, Beyoncé performed at the Super Bowl, while her "Formation" video looped continually on screens around the country. I was working on a commercial shoot in Santa Clara last week when news of its release rolled through social media. The Panthers' team buses had already created a buzz, but it was nothing compared to the party being held on Twitter.

As someone who can name more important things Beyoncé has done than songs she's released, I don't usually rush to hear her new music, but this time the conversation felt different so I pulled out my small and mildly cracked phone to watch.

The sun was glaring and there was small talk chatter around me, but I knew I was witnessing something historic; weeping when I heard a powerful voice from New Orleans, saw a child dancing before a line of policemen, and a woman in the full glory of who she is, invite her sisters to the party.

By the time I got home, Dr. Zandria Robinson had already composed an astonishing commentary on the video, a must-read to understand why this is more than a song. But I'm here to say something else: If you check the "Caucasian" box on a job application, your place is in the bleachers for this dance.


"If you check the 'Caucasian' box on a job application, your place is in the bleachers for this dance."

It's time for us to stop singing along  --  to "Formation," to Kendrick Lamar's "Alright," to any song that has the n-word or celebrates blackness in a way we will never understand. Our ancestors signed away that right when they signed their names to contracts that said they owned human beings, or signed tabs in restaurants that didn't allow "colored people."

If your ancestors were abolitionists or civil rights protestors, you knew these things a long time ago. But for the rest of us, our people were either active racists or passive enablers, a pitiful legacy if ever there was one.

How many centuries were our black brothers and sisters relegated to the position of audience -- the thrills of competitive sports, television and movie screens, even the petty dramas of middle class servitude demanding their attention. We gave them the role of witness to our stories without so much as a thought that they might have their own. Today, those stories are rising to be told and though we may be the villain or not so much as a paragraph, if we listen it will be our great joy to learn all that we have missed.

So let's be where we need to be today and every time "Formation" plays : on the sidelines cheering.

This post originally appeared on Medium.