Beyoncé doesn’t often perform cover songs - and there’s no real reason she should. But, lately I’ve been thinking how amazing it would be if she took a page out of Mariah Carey’s book and recorded a version of “Obsessed” and dedicated it to Mike Huckabee. Hey Mike, why you so obsessed with Bey?
Or maybe someone should superimpose Huckabee’s face onto Ali Larter’s body during the infamous fight scene in Obsessed, Beyoncé’s 2009 nod to Fatal Attraction with Idris Elba. That way, Bey could overpower Huckabee in all her cinematic glory. In actually, she will not respond to Huckabee’s recent comments because they don’t warrant her time. Nothing needs to be done. His recent criticism seems so ridiculous and out-of-touch that it’s laughable.
One thing’s for sure though, Huckabee is obsessed with Beyoncé. But, we might actually learn a valuable political lesson by investigating his criticism. It actually proves, as so many other things today prove, that racism is alive and well and the attack on black women’s lives, bodies, and choices in America is just as prevalent today as it was 50 years ago, 100 years ago, ____ years ago - fill in any number; the point stands.
While mentioning Beyoncé in any capacity is a sure-fire way for Huckabee to garner attention for himself, and while his moralizing about other people’s bodies is nothing new either, he is also playing quite the racist - albeit coded - game through his criticism. And while you might have a hard time finding anyone in America (or the rest of the world) eager to take up sides against Beyoncé, there are, unfortunately, a huge number of people that will feel perfectly comfortable aligning themselves with his coded racist language. This is exactly why he quickly expanded his criticism from Beyoncé and Jay-Z to include the President of the U.S. and the entire Obama family.
Here is what’s really going on though:
First, Huckabee completely misunderstands Beyoncé’s music, performances, choreography, and politics, among other things I’m sure. Maybe he should take my course, “Politicizing Beyoncé.” I have a feeling he wouldn’t do very well though; he doesn’t seem to have an open mind or the critical thinking skills necessary for nuanced analysis. Labeling Beyoncé’s music “mental poison” is quite ironic since the real poison is the racist vitriol spewed by the likes of Huckabee and his Fox News compatriots. Beyoncé’s music is innovative, political, feminist, black-affirming, and she is probably the greatest living entertainer today. To collapse everything she does into showing a little skin and performing a few suggestive dance moves (which produce political commentary in most cases) is to miss the point entirely.
Moreover, the language he uses to insult - through his own self-described words of caution - Beyoncé and Jay-Z is the racist language of pimps and hos. This just doesn’t fly on any level, as if calling a woman a whore in any regard in this day and age could possibly be deemed politically correct. When race is taken into account, a white man calling a black woman a whore and blaming the black man she is married to for pimping her out is such regressive language it would actually seem like a punchline to a terrible joke if Huckabee weren’t so earnest about it. What year are we living in again?
This whole analysis also completely erases Beyoncé’s own agency and control of her own career - Jay-Z may be powerful, but he does not decide what Beyoncé does or does not do. The move to ascribe agency only to Jay-Z and to paint Beyoncé as an unsuspecting participant in his criminal behavior speaks more to Huckabee’s own fear of a powerful black woman making her own choices than it does about anything Jay-Z and Beyoncé may be doing in their careers or personal lives. Zerlina Maxwell spoke to this same fact on Politics Nation with Al Sharpton, saying “Beyoncé scares a lot of…older white men because she is explicit about the fact that she owns her body. Her sexuality is hers and she chooses to express it and has agency in doing so. And that scares a lot of folks that don’t want women to be equal to men.”
If it wasn’t clear already, the move to the Obamas, further solidifies Huckabee’s as explicitly racist rhetoric. Because it turns into an attack on the black family in general and black women in particular, at the expense of Beyoncé - as both an artist and as a close personal friend of the Obamas. Jay-Z and Barack Obama seem to fade away and the argument becomes a critique of the job Michelle Obama (and I’m leaving aside what kind of backlash would have followed an argument like this leveled at any previous President’s children and family - which could be a whole essay unto itself) has done raising her daughters Sasha and Malia - because, after all, with Huckabee’s regressive gender politics, you know he believes the raising of the children is solely the responsibility of the woman of the household. So now we have two black women and two black girls at the center of a white man’s criticism about parenting and morality. Sound familiar? Moynihan? Reagan? So many more? Hmmmmmm…
Michelle Obama becomes the irresponsible, all-around-bad black mother for setting a terrible example by listening to Beyoncé herself, while committing the additional crime of letting her daughters listen as well. Forget that Beyoncé is producing some of the most empowering and affirming mainstream music for young black women today, because Huckabee has already missed that point. Beyoncé herself becomes the bad black influence that taints whatever she touches. And Sasha and Malia Obama become the already corrupted young black girls lost to the dark side - pun intended. They are victims but also at fault - after all, how could it have been different having come from a family that supported Beyoncé’s music?! Forget the agency and critical thinking skills of all the above involved. Huckabee certainly does.
Melissa Harris-Perry has described the world as appearing as a crooked room to black women due to the myriad stereotypes they encounter on a daily basis. She says, “One way African American women try to help their daughters stand straight in the crooked room is by telling them inspiring stories.” Sometimes these stories come through music. Perhaps Michelle Obama allows and even encourages her daughters to listen to Beyoncé because Beyoncé offers powerful and political alternatives to black women through her music - about what black women can be in a world set against them; about what black women can accomplish and achieve when they are constantly shoved down. Just because we have one black President does not mean obstacles to equality do not still exist. The Obamas know this. Perhaps Beyoncé is an inspiring story to offer their children. And maybe Beyoncé makes empowering music to pass on to her own daughter. Huckabee just doesn’t seem to have a clue.
Beyoncé has never advocated sexuality without agency or empowerment. She has never stooped to using sexuality just to sell records like most other artists today. She has never provided a bad example. She has made a career out of empowering women, creating music where she is in charge - and on the few occasions where she isn’t in charge, her lack of power serves to illuminate a political point about the current crises facing black women in the world today. And, yet, she still can’t win. She still gets criticized. It’s a double-bind; a catch-22. And it’s the political and social situation of black women in America today: damned if you; damned if you don’t. We have a powerful black woman in the White House, along with her two confident black daughters. And they are being vilified for listening to the music of another dynamic, uncompromising black woman. And people will say that racism is dead. And people will say this has nothing to do with race. Or gender.
These are rigidly-ingrained problems that so many of us are trying to negotiate and rectify.
But honestly, right now, I just want to tell Mike Huckabee to shut the fuck up.