On May 13, Ben Garrison released a racist photo that compared the First Lady Michelle Obama to Melania Trump. While Melania was depicted as the epitome of femininity, the First Lady was depicted as a muscular brute, a thing to be feared and unwanted. As President Obama’s second term in the White House comes to an end, we are left to reflect on mainstream media’s treatment of FLOTUS and what that means for young Black girls in America.
Through comparing the First Lady and Melania Trump, the political cartoon asserts that the First Lady is not one who is worth having the position and the prestige of belonging in the White House. Even though she is Princeton educated, and even though she went to Harvard Law School, all of this is still not enough for her to be respected by the media. Not only that, she has been the pinnacle of grace and beauty while on the presidential campaign and in the White House. Yet, there are always haters who resort to infantile stereotypes to demean her powerful image and positive reputation.
In the past, the President and the First Lady have been subjected to blatantly offensive depictions. The mainstream predominantly white media’s response has been to forget, ignore, and excuse these depictions. As a Black woman, this infuriates me because the media’s refusal to confront the racist treatment of our country’s First Lady shows that for the racist and sexist individuals in our society, no level of Black brilliance or excellence will never be enough.
Artists like Ben Garrison fall back on the emotional and historical mistreatment of Black women because it is a way to dehumanize powerful Black women. Furthermore, it is a way to continue to mentally and emotionally traumatize young Black women who dare to see themselves as objects of beauty.
As a child, I unconsciously knew about the stereotypes that haunt Black women. I saw Aunt Jemima Syrup. I saw the Angry Black women in movies who had the fury of a wild animal. I didn’t want to think about it because I knew that these images were a reminder that this society didn’t want me or see me as a human. This of course was silly but this hurt not because it was right. It hurt because I no longer felt validated as a woman. I felt like something else, an animal—a thing that people should run away from.
For me when I see this cartoon, I just don’t see a ridiculous image that the media will forget in a few weeks. I see an image that haunts my mother, my sisters, and my future children. It is an image that tells me once a Black woman gains power in the white media’s eyes, they will still treat her like an animal or an object, a thing to be examined. Enough is enough.