US & Canada

Solange Knowles: Where do black people 'belong'?

Solange Knowles Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Solange Knowles used her experience at a concert to write about the broader issue of black people in "white spaces"

Following an incident between her family and a group of white women at a concert, singer Solange Knowles penned an essay explaining how black families are made to feel uncomfortable in "white spaces".

While attending a Kraftwerk concert in New Orleans, Louisiana, with her husband, 11-year-old son and his friend, Knowles drew the ire of a group of white women seated behind them.

Knowles began live-tweeting from the concert, where she estimated she and her family were among only 20 black attendees in a crowd of 1,500 white concert-goers.

"4 older white women yell to me from behind, 'Sit down now'. I tell them I'm dancing at a concert. They yell, 'u need to sit down now'..." Knowles tweeted. "You are telling ... not asking me ... to sit down. In front of my child."

Knowles wrote that the incident culminated in the women pelting her with trash and a lime wedge.

"I'm just going to share my experience ... So that maybe someone will understand, why many of us don't feel safe ... in many white spaces," she tweeted.

But some criticised Knowles for starting "drama" and said she had been rude for standing.

A short item about the incident in the New York Post called her complaints a "Twitter rant".

At some point, Knowles deleted almost all her tweets describing what happened.

On Sunday she published an essay titled And Do You Belong? I Do on her website Saint Heron.

She explained why the incident was not isolated, and why her response should not be treated as celebrity gossip.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Solange Knowles (L) is the younger sister of Beyonce Knowles

"The tone," she began. "It's the same one that says to your friend, 'BOY…. go on over there and hand me my bag' at the airport, assuming he's a porter.

"It's the same one that tells you, 'ma'am, go into that other line over there' when you are checking in at the airport at the first class counter before you even open up your mouth."

Knowles said that even before the dancing incident, a security guard brusquely ordered her son and his friend to stop smoking.

She writes that two adult white men were actually the ones puffing away.

It was just the latest in a series of incidents in which Knowles felt she was aggressively, dismissively or rudely treated in spaces that seemed to be reserved for white people.

She said she didn't feel as though the people she encountered "do not like black people", but instead were a "product of their white supremacy and are exercising it on you without caution, care, or thought".

"Many times the tone just simply says, 'I do not feel you belong here.' You and your friends have been called the N word, been approached as prostitutes, and have had your hair touched in a predominately white bar just around the corner from the same venue."

Knowles' essay was met with praise and support online, including from actress Gabrielle Union.

"I can relate to everything @solangeknowles experienced. This is real & it happens everyday. We are not making it up," Union wrote.

Another Twitter user wrote: "@solangeknowles' piece is a good reminder for anyone who thinks famous & affluent black people are immune to racism."

By penning her own essay about the incident, Knowles writes that she hoped to take control of the conversation and avoid focusing on what she might have done to deserve the treatment she received.

"We belong. We belong. We belong," she concluded.

"We built this."


More from the Magazine

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionInside the mind of White America

More on this story