If you haven't been living under a rock, you probably already know that Beyoncé absolutely crushed her performance at the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) Sunday night. She performed a medley of songs from her latest visual album, Lemonade, including "Formation," which took home the VMA for Video of the Year. Like the "Formation" video, her performance last night incorporated a visual rebuke of racism and police brutality. After the show, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani decried Beyoncé's performance, implying that it was anti-police and calling it a "shame."
Beyoncé may have been pitch perfect, but Giuliani couldn't have been more tone deaf. On Monday morning, when Fox News' Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt asked the former mayor of New York City and prominent Donald Trump surrogate what he thought of the performance, he said, "You're asking the wrong person because I had five uncles who were police officers, two cousins who were, one who died in the line of duty. I ran the largest and best police department in the world, the New York City Police Department. And I saved more black lives than any of those people you saw on stage by reducing crime and particularly homicide by 75 percent." When Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade said, "Beyoncé is an extremely popular and powerful performer, and when she does stuff like that, that message to the next generation is pretty indelible," Giuliani responded, "It's a shame. It's a shame."
Giuliani's family's service in the NYPD is admirable and commendable. In the context of Beyoncé's performance, though, that isn't the point. The problem with comments like Giuliani's is that they imply that being anti-police brutality is the same thing as being anti-police, an argument that resurfaces frequently during Black Lives Matter protests and even other Beyoncé performances, like the Super Bowl halftime show.
Being opposed to police brutality is not the same thing as being opposed to police. Expecting police officers to do their jobs correctly — i.e. protecting all members of the communities they serve, not using unnecessary force and treating black citizens equally to white ones — is not anti-police.
Beyoncé tends to avoid interviews and let her work speak for itself. However, she attended the VMAs with the Mothers of the Movement, a group of women affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement. On its website, Black Lives Matter explicitly states that police officers' lives "have inherent value," and that most officers "are just everyday people who want to do their jobs, make a living for their families, and come home safely at the end of their shift."
Giuliani's comments illustrate a false binary. Of course, police officers are integral parts of the communities they serve. We should respect and value them — but asking them to respect and protect black Americans is not disrespectful.