Today CNN reported that Fox celebrity and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee said in a book he recently wrote (apparently a piece of fan-lit written to show that he doesn’t just play a dumb hic/hillbilly preacher on television; he really is one) some stuff about Beyonce. The CNN writer, as you can read for yourself, seems to see this as an affront to Beyonce’s supposed feminist cred. We’ll let her speak here:
“Mike Huckabee — that is, wants-to be-President Mike Huckabee — spelled it out in his book, “God, Guns, Grits and Gravy.” He writes: “Beyonce is incredibly talented — gifted, in fact. She has an exceptional set of pipes and can actually sing. She is a terrific dancer — without the explicit moves best left for the privacy of her bedroom. Jay Z is a very shrewd businessman, but I wonder: Does it occur to him that he is arguably crossing the line from husband to pimp by exploiting his wife as a sex object?”
What the CNN writer failed to notice was that what Huckles performed in the quote above was a perfect example of racist and misogynistic reductionism based on a foundation of white supremacy. This semantic trick occurs all the time in our culture to all people who go outside the lines of the accepted social hierarchy. Beyonce is no longer a person but now becomes reduced to the classic racist stereotype of the whore-wench that was used to deconstruct any shred of power either a woman or most especially, a black woman might have. Huckles gives a little again, by making the assessment that “she can actually sing” as if so many other popular female performers can’t? Or is he saying its surprising that she can sing considering she gets up there and shakes all he girl stuff in skimpy outfits and she’s black?
Women who don’t fit into the neat, narrow landscape of being white first, then middle class second (and dainty, non threatening and at least nearly virginal or Madonna-like) must be give the ten thousand semantic cuts. The knife of social control comes down hard. Every decent woman cringes at the thought of being called a ‘ho’. In fact, among most girls in America, this social weeding starts early and the best way to eliminate girl competition on any level is to call out another girl as a “whore” or “slut”. Its so prevalent there’s a name for it; “slut shaming”.
Welfare mothers are whores (let’s not forget the racism in this trope) that ‘mooch’ off of the general economy (a ‘white’ owned economy of course), black women who have personal pride in their heritage and black beauty are uppity and probably ho’s. All women who assert themselves are bitchy and either frigid with their husbands or selling out her chastity to everyone in town for a dollar. Ain’t no middle ground in the world of Fried Squirrel Conservativism. But in American lore, black women have no chastity to sell; in the south all black woman, like the black man were just simply objects of profit for the white man anyway. Always for sale. Always ready for exploitation. Always ready for white consumption.
Of course Huckles wouldn’t be doing justice to the semantic game if he didn’t find a way to include Jay-Z in this whole mix. Afterall, doesn’t Jay-Z exude success, doesn’t he run some kind of business enterprise? Hasn’t he proven he has the chops to rise above the heap and moreover, show he can run in the game with the “approved” boys? (aka white)? Even Huckles is generous enough to give him that, (sort of). But uh-oh, not so fast!
Of course! Jay-Z is a pimp!He’s not working at all but basically living off the spoils of exploiting his wench/ho on the street, fulfilling his role to make every part of the black life ready for eager white consumption, including his wife (because black men don’t have wives when black women only exist for white male consumption). Jay-Z symbolizes another part of the American racist mythology; the every threatening, unpredictable, cunning, precarious, opportunistic black man pimp.
No black man can legitimately earn his own money because in Fried Squirrel Conservatism, as played out int he border south, a black man’s capacity to earn was tied inextricably to the power of the white man to define where and how and for how much he shall work. The black man needs the white man’s consumption, the black man feeds his well being and existence from the white man. Of course! Jay-Z couldn’t be a legitimate businessman who turned his popular performances that often portrayed the rage of the black man into a real, for-profit enterprise? Now, many have criticized Jay-Z’s successful participation in the capitalist game and what that all means but Huckles’ anaylsis of Jay-Z and Beyonce runs far under that low radar.
With just a few keystrokes old Huckles made red blooded white Americans feel better about themselves. He pulled out his KKK hood, donned it for good times sake and reminded the powerful that dumb white folks are more than happy to patrol the streets and eliminate any runaways or night-time steal-aways He even got some two-bit publisher to stamp it all out into so many a million copies to peddle everywhere for every red blooded ignoramus in the country. Huckle’s commentary wreaks of the stench of a simple-minded, hood wearing racist.
The lyrics to the Racist Song of Love and White Assurance that Huckles sang above in his book draw from popular American mythology; a mythology with deep roots in slavery and Jim Crow. Roots that still grow their nasty, knarly, twisted ugly trees of racism that shade our society from the light of truth and movement forward.
Now for those of you who may wish to say that the analysis drawn above smacks of stereotypes that cause your caucasion complexion to take on a rather red hue; think a minute. Hopefully this red-hue is one of embarrassment because you might as well get this fact sunk into your head; if you are white, this is the world you support unless you work to undo it. White people and most especially middle class and higher white people perform these mental gymnastics of social reductionism and elimination every minute of everyday.
The CNN writer fell into this trap by attempting to prove Beyonce’s feminist cred or Jay-Z’s legitimacy as a businessman. Black people, poor people, disabled people and women as well, must all prove to the dominant class, their worthiness to be free of public shame, scorn and social alienation. Anyone who speaks of social justice and equality will often get thrown into the mythical cesspool of social rejection. Anyone who speaks of deconstructing the mythology itself also gets labeled and tossed aside. But, it takes cooperation from all members, by skin color and economics, to allow this to persist. Where do you place yourself on the color-class line? What have you done today to disallow the persistence of language and/or action that keeps these lines in place?