Beyonce And Jay-Z: Our Modern Day Cliff and Claire Huxtable
By Nick Chiles
At a time when black love, black marriage, the very idea of the black family seems to be under siege, along come Jay-Z and Beyonce to provide a shining example of the beauty of black love. They are huge, interplanetary icons, and they did it the old-fashioned way, the way that most parents dream about their children doing it: they met, they fell in love, they got married, then they got pregnant. It’s like love out of a fairy tale–but yet it’s real life. And it’s a powerful message out there for all the young folks who have grown up thinking such story lines were no longer possible, that it couldn’t happen to them. Jay-Z and Beyonce are the second coming of Cliff and Claire Huxtable.
I got a lot of laughs from “The Cosby Show” when I was younger, but something else that I got was a useful image of a strong black couple. With their powerful careers, their sexy, playful banter, their obvious deep affection for one another, Cliff and Claire Huxtable gave my generation a playbook for what black love was supposed to look like. Yes, of course we knew they were fictitious, but somehow that didn’t lessen their power and influence. We all wanted to be like them when we grew up, wanted a perfectly complementary partner, wanted to create a family unit that pulsated with warmth and humor. Black women saw in Claire the woman who seemed to have it all. Young white men and women had a long succession of couple icons, from Ozzie and Harriet to Carol and Mike Brady. We had the Huxtables. As role models, they were beautiful, iconic, eloquent.
But over the last couple of decades, a creeping cynicism has swept across the land, a widespread perception in the black community that black men and women can no longer sustain relationships, that we are more likely to be at war with each other than in love with each other. Things have gotten so bad that a Stanford law professor, Ralph Richard Banks, has written a book, “Is Marriage for White People?: How the African American Marriage Decline Affects Everyone,” encouraging black women to marry outside of their race and, as he puts it, “stop being held hostage to the deficiencies of black men.” If you love black people and are still holding onto the idea of the strong black family, that’s some depressing, debilitating stuff. In Banks’s world, perhaps we should be holding aloft Halle Berry as the ideal black female icon–a black woman who has had no problem finding comfort in the arms of white men.
(Beyonce baby bump out in NYC earlier today)
But I don’t want to give up that easy. I prefer to look around me and get my cues from all the examples of strong black love I see on a daily basis. Each one of these love relationships tells me that it’s still possible for black men and women to find each other, to support each other, to fight for each other, to love each other. And as our shining prince and princess, we have Jay-Z and Beyonce, powerfully in love (or, in homage to Beyonce, perhaps I should say Dangerously in Love), the Cliff and Claire Huxtable of the new millennium.
Nick Chiles is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and New York Times bestselling author.