It is interesting how people’s biases manifest themselves. You may have seen this trend on social media where once Black people are involved, nonblack people suddenly become experts on random topics. The debates sparked by House of Dragon and the live Action Little Mermaid are examples of this. Recently the target for this outrage was Lizzo and a flute that most people had no knowledge of. 

On Friday, Sept. 24, the Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden, tweeted out a picture of the Library of Congress’s flute collection; Hayden directly invited Lizzo to view and play their flutes in the caption. Lizzo is classically trained to play the flute. She studied music in university and before dropping out her goal was to play the flute as a career. 

Lizzo’s invitation was not some random marketing strategy to get the Library of Congress mainstream attention. Don’t get me wrong, the visit definitely had the intent to gain attention, but Lizzo was such a great choice of musician. Lizzo is an incredibly popular artist with a fanbase consisting of people who the Library of Congress has overlooked in the past. This overlooked fanbase consists of young black women. The Library of Congress having Lizzo could spark interest in anthropology, history and classical music amongst the younger generation. So, how and why are people viewing this as a bad thing? 

Lizzo played instruments during her visit, but the one that caused a stir was former president James Madison’s crystal flute. After her visit, the Library of Congress loaned out Madison’s flute for Lizzo to play at her Sept. 28 concert. Her initial visit already sparked some upset comments, but the concert caused outrage. The main reasons people claimed to be upset were that Lizzo could have damaged the flute and it was disrespectful to the former president. 

The claim that Lizzo would have damaged the instrument can be easily disproved with critical thinking. If the instruments have a high risk of being damaged, why would people who specialize in preserving them allow her to play them? Also the flute she played is a part of a government collection, so of course there would be safety precautions for her concert. One would think Lizzo stole it from the library based off of the upset people online. 

For those who cannot think critically, do not fear! The Library of Congress released a press release after Lizzo’s visit. In this release they state “Before Lizzo arrived, the Library’s curators in the Music Division made sure that it could be played safely and without damage. This sort of thing is not as unusual as it might sound. Many of the Library’s priceless instruments are played every now and again”.

They also spoke about the safety of the instrument in regards to the concert “So when Lizzo asked if she could play the flute at her Tuesday concert in front of thousands of fans, the Library’s collection, preservation and security teams were up to the challenge. When an item this valuable leaves any museum or library, for loan or display in an exhibition, preservation and security are the priorities. At the Library, curators ensure that the item can be transported in a customized protective container and a Library curator and security officer are always guarding the item until it is secured once more.”

The second reason people were mad can’t really be disproved, as it is subjective. Was James Madison’s legacy disrespected? In my opinion, of course it wasn’t. Firstly, the Madison fanboys who seemed to come out of nowhere should be thanking Lizzo, because this is the most I’ve heard of the former president since Hamilton released. 

Secondly, is Madison known as a flute connoisseur? Out of all the information we have about Madison, his flute playing is pretty low on the notability list. If anything Lizzo strengthened his legacy by humanizing him and bringing his flute back into the public eye. Instead of “James Madison, slave owning 4th president who played a part in the constitution” he’s now “James Madison, slave owning 4th president who played a part in the constitution who also had a cool flute.”

I think most people were actually mad at Lizzo because she is not a traditional looking classical musician. She is a plus sized Black woman who was having fun. Having Lizzo be a representative of a field dominated by white men set people off. Factoring in it being an ex-president’s flute, I’m not shocked people were mad. I find it sad that people let their biases ruin something that created interest around Classical music.