On February 6, 2016, Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter released the song, “Formation.” Since then, the Black community has constantly debated one line in that song: “You mix that Negro with that Creole.”
I’ve seen many a discussions surrounding the “divisiveness” of Beyoncé’s statement. To them, Creole and Negro are both Black, and her separating the two is part of her light-skinned agenda to divide Black people and to other herself. A valid statement, but in the talks of does Creole count as Blackness, or is it an exoticized version of Blackness, one voice is missing from the discussion: a Southern Black one.
The South is not a monolith.
I am from central rural Mississippi. As such, I identify as a Black Southern woman. When I hear Beyonce say, “My daddy Alabama, momma Louisiana/You mix that negro with that Creole make a Texas bamma,” I think about place. I think about the defining cultures of those places. For me, Beyoncé compared Black Alabamian culture to the larger Southern negro culture and Louisianian culture to Creole culture. I don’t think this is a mistake or that it’s problematic to do so.
A quick Google search shows you that Louisiana Creole was a term coined in the 1700s to refer to people in one of three categories: white Creoles; mixed-race Creoles of French, African, and Native American descent; and the larger class of African and Black Creole slaves.
When many think of the term Creole, they primarily think of the mixed-race Creoles. Like many of those affected by American slavery, those of mixed race were given advantages than darker-skinned Black people were not. Many mixed-race Creole people were able to get an education and acquire land and property. As a result, they were much wealthier than their Black enslaved Creole counterparts who weren’t mixed with white and indigenous people. Since mixed-race Creoles were treated better and had a higher socioeconomic status (many were free), they believed they were better than Black enslaved Creoles often treating them as inferior — similar to the way white Creoles treated them.
For the Black people, I’ve seen discuss this term on The Grapevine or Hoodrats to Headwraps, they view the term “Creole” as divisive. They heard someone who is light-skinned call herself Creole, and it evoked the…