From Michelle to Melania: Femininity, Race and White Supremacy

The morning after the 2008 election, I had an American Literature class with a white professor at a historically black university. This professor would prove drastically inferior to the brilliant black minds to which my education would acquaint me. He also proved consistently discouraging, seizing every opportunity to belittle the writing of a small class filled entirely with young black women. The morning following the election he spent a large portion of our fifty minute class condescendingly addressing the Obamas, treating a black family occupying the White House as many regarded the 2005 blackout. The most resonant of his comments some nine years later were the comments he made regarding Michelle Obama–namely the facial expression he wore when he called her victory dress ugly. Although he spoke of her dress, it was obvious that he regarded the black female body that was then the First Lady with a similar disgust. His comments cemented my perception of him as inherently racist, and fomented my understanding that the western world nurtures all whites to bear this predisposed racist mindset. This inherent racism became obvious in discussing black male Barack Obama but perhaps proved most transparent in discussing First Lady Michelle Obama.

The comments rendered by my former professor, mirrored the comments that would follow Michelle Obama throughout her time as First Lady, comments that would prove dichotomous to conversations surrounding current First Lady Melania Trump. Incidentally, the comments generated by both political figures unveils race and gender perceptions as stagnant.

Criticism surrounding the Obamas as a couple,  frequently accused the Obama’s of using tax money to attend vacations. These accusations disregard the reality that Obamas were hardly broke before occupying the oval office. Much of the western psyche appears contingent on blacks circumscribed to an existence that is either dumb, ugly and poor. These contingencies plagued Michelle Obama’s First Lady status, bludgeoning her image with comments that functioned to reduce her to an angry black female undeserving of the First Lady title.

Michelle faced constant criticism for her racially assertive Princeton thesis entitled “Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community.” Many referenced this thesis as evidence that Michelle Obama “hated this county,” was “racist.” Despite centuries of turmoil, the blacks in America remain consistently pressured to embody a grateful stance toward a country that continues to oppress them. Those who operate with any kind of historical cognizance are commonly killed, or incarcerated labeled a “criminal” if male and and “angry” if black and female. The western media constantly painted Michelle Obama as an angry black woman in her failure to adopt a pageant smile for each and every public appearance. In reality, claims of an attitude and ungratefulness veil the true catalyst for Michelle Obama’s criticism. While campaigning for Hilary Clinton would consummate the shuking and jiving expected of her, Obama’s behavior would still prove deficient to the praise white America expected her to sing with every word and facial expression.

Although centuries separated from physical slavery. the western world renders a series of impositions onto the black body that mirror the demands faced by their ancestors. Perhaps the most prominent of these demands is a demand for blacks to occupy a pride-less state. This lack of pride allows themichelle-obama-arms-workout.jpg black body to become a vessel for white ideologies. In place of self-esteem, pride-less bodies displace esteem onto their oppressors. What is perhaps most disturbing is that Michelle is not Angela Davis, Assata Shakur or Winnie Mandela, and white society still strives to break her stride. This illustrates that whether fractionally or undeniably present, black pride poses a threat to white supremacy–as black shame is necessary to foment white pride.

moape.jpgMany comments corresponding to an article or photo of Michelle Obama referred the  former first lady as Moonchelle, aligning her aesthetics to that of an ape. The ridicule Michelle Obama faced for her looks operates out of necessity. White ridicule on black aesthetics occurs almost predictably, implemented by whites to assert their own beauty. Tanning salons to darken colorless skin, lip and butt injections to add definition to thin features, and hair extensions to veil see-through locks, unveil the depth of white insecurity. Yet the western world functions to convince the black body their aesthetically traits are cringe-worthy not covetable. The frequent juxtaposition between Michelle Obama and Melania Trump functions similarly, for it is Michelle’s “ugliness” that provides a platform for current first lady, Melania Trump’s beauty.

Melania Trump, the third wife of President Donald Trump, succeeds Michelle Obama in the role of first lady. A native of Slovenia, Melania had a successful modeling career prior to marrying Trump — a man twenty-four years her senior. Her modeling photos have since surfaced and reveal that our now first lady posed nude and for a paycheck.  This fact  proves rigid western standards optional when posed to those of the majority. Singer Janet Jackson was blacklisted from numerous award shows following a wardrobe malfunction that revealed her breast to the word during the 2004 Super Bowl.  Nudity also disqualified Vanessa Williams from the Miss America title in 1983.  Yet Melania Trump melaniatrump_010616douglasfriedman.jpgholds a much more prestigious and influential position and her naked body remains a click away from anyone with Internet access. This double standard illustrates nudity as a smokescreen. The western world simply did not want to award Williams this honor, so they searched and searched until they discovered a past act or statement that suggested it was William’s unworthiness not racism that warranted the retracted honor. Michelle Obama’s media portrayal functioned similarly, as her implied “ungratefulness” suggested that it is not racism that foments her criticism but her behavior.

While Michelle Obama faced criticism for her appearance, Melania Trump garners consistent praise for her looks. Although easily attributed to preference, celebration surrounding a surgically altered face illustrates a western preference for any face as long as it’s white. Melania’s looks also garner praise possibly due to her lack of professional accomplishments that prove germane given her new setting. While Michelle Obama proved an anomaly as one of the few first ladies to bear a professional degree, Melania blends in to the trophy status preferred by our white supremacist society.

In contemplating current discussion surrounding women’s rights under the Trump administration, the white house dynamic unveils feminism as existing to serve women like Melanie Trump. Currently trending is the The #freeMelania hashtag, a reactionary measure implemented following a photograph where Melania supposedly appears “terrified.” To occupy myself with feminist concerns such as this one, is to overlook that black females still fight for the “freedoms” extended to Melania. Melania-a woman who willingly journeyed to America and accrued more liberties after getting her green card than black females have received in centuries, is not a figure worthy of sympathy from anyone—especially not the black female. Brains earned the black female body a place in the white house. Whether looking up at a camera or at Donald, the current first lady earned the same title on back. Furthermore, the Michelle Obama and Melanie trump dichotomy illustrates that to earn visibility in the western world the black female body must posses a degree of greatness, whereas the white female body simply has to be white.

So while the feminist community concerns themselves with “freeing” Melania, as a womanist, I deem freeing the back female body from western influences like feminism far more relevant.

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Gone Girl Versus Bye Felicia: Examining The Inequity of Blackness

Almost five years ago, I, along with countless others around the world, read Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. The thriller seemed the perfect summer read, well-equipped with multiple perspectives and gritty drama. gone-girl1

Gone Girl renders the perspectives of Amy and Nick Dunne, a married couple who have hit a rough patch in their union. Amy Dunne is a young, unconventionally beautiful trust fund baby whose parents afford her a privileged upbringing by way of a book series conceived in her honor. Exasperated by her spouse’s infidelity and mediocre ambitions, Amy stages her own disappearance which prompts a national search. Nick Dunne, an average guy with average ambitions, finds love with Amy– a woman who knows a different perspective to privilege then afforded by his modest upbringing. Emasculated by Amy’s economic comfort and his personal shortcomings, Nick emotionally checks out of his marriage and elicits an affair with one of his students. Inevitably surfacing as the prime suspect in his wife’s disappearance, Nick becomes the victim of white female wrath.

As a young blonde white woman—Amy possesses a conventional beauty and thereby embodies western treasure. A conventionally beautiful, wealthy white female Amy implements her privilege by attacking the white men who fall in love with who they believe she is. Her past is decorated in staged rapes and stalking, painting her as a desirable being that warrants animalistic male tendencies. Gone Girl captures Amy in her lifetime performance— framing her husband for her “disappearance/murder.”

In actuality what author Gillian Flynn does with protagonist “Amazing Amy” is a craft a mockery of abduction and crime. Gone Girl veils abduction and criminality with a comedic string of events orchestrated by an over-privileged white woman determined not only to prove her worth to her cheating husband, but to the world.

natalee_holloway_yearbook_photoGone Girl’s Amazing Amy mirrors real-life “gone girls” Natalie Holloway and Elizabeth Smart. While Elizabeth Smart mirrors the lost and found dynamic that frequents western suspense-thrillers, Holloway, America’s golden girl smartpersonifies every parents worst nightmare, a child that goes on a class trip but never returns.

Following her disappearance, Holloway became a household name— her face, a national treasure burned into the minds of all Americans. Much like the fictive Amy Dunne, Holloway was young, conventionally beautiful and wealthy. Taken together they epitomize the tragedy American imbues in its inability to protect its most treasured asset.

barnesConversely, Phylicia Barnes, a sixteen- year-old black youth went missing a few years later to a vastly underwhelmed public. Barnes graduated high school a semester early and was on the fast track to college when she also went on a trip in which she would never return. Four months after her disappearance, her nude and unrecognizable body was found in the Baltimore river. Her discovery met the ears of many who never even knew she was missing. Like Holloway, Barnes was beautiful and bright. But unlike Holloway, Barnes was black. Barnes did not receive national coverage and she did not endure the celebrity status afforded to Holloway. Barnes endured a dual tragedy, one in her untimely murder and a second in epitomizing the disregard afforded to black bodies throughout the western world. To her family Barnes is a fallen angel but to the western world she is a faceless woman of color the world is better without.

This dynamic hits close to home for me as one of my little cousins has been missing for over three weeks. His mother created a flyer, simply because the community precinct failed to do so. As a family, we wait daily for updates, updates that are few and far between because a young black male just simply does not warrant the search efforts of the police or soldiers of white supremacy. Thus, to see a woman fabricate a story that receives much more attention than real loss is a cruel mockery of an unbalanced system.

To whites, blacks only matter when money is involved. The most worthy blacks accompany the title celebrity, their value determined by how much capital they afford whites. These blacks, if missing garner national attention because they are under contract. History conveys a similar dynamic. Traditionally, when black bodies went missing whites searched endlessly to ensure their property was returned to them. Back when black bodies proved profitable, their loss proved valuable to white supremacy. The contemporary world imposes white supremacy on the western mind in simply rendering any black body not in direct correspondence to western economics worthless. No black person could fabricate their disappearance to the same reaction afforded to Gone Girl‘s Amazing Amy. Even in truth, justice for blacks is seldom.

Gone Girl in book and cinematic form overlook the privilege in simply being “gone.” The phrasing accompanies an endless plight to discover the missing person. The western world does not afford the black body the privilege of being gone, as perfunctory effort awaits the black body that goes missing. Thus, Gone Girl’s fictive depiction illustrates the label “gone” as a privilege exclusively reserved for whites. While white women are “gone girls” black female bodies endure the frivolous dismissal embedded in the popular phrasing- “Bye Felicia.”

What is deserving of a formal dismissal is a system that deems the black body forgettable and utterly replaceable. While I reference my cousin directly, the cavalier disregard that hovers over his missing status mirrors the treatment that awaits any black body lost or missing. Interestingly, it is discussions like these that reveal black rights as human rights. Blacks are not fighting to maintain a form of superiority over others. For centuries, we have endured the impossibly difficult quest to be treated as humans. Somehow this quest becomes magnified in discussions of disappearance and tragedy, despite its presence in everyday life.

Furthermore, there is no need to retrain officers, there is a need to repeal the entire system. Blacks need a system where their lives, education, children and safety matter and their lost bodies garner concern not cavalier disregard. This is something consistently denied by the western world, and therefore is something we must take. In closing I’ll leave with you with the words of the late and great Dr. King:

“No one can do this for us, we must do this for ourselves.”

 

 

 

 

The 2017 Women’s March, A Black Female Perspective….

Following Trump’s inauguration a series of Women’s Marches occurred throughout North America. The protests erupted to preserve the female liberties seemingly threatened by a “conservative” president who boasted of sexually assaulting women. As a female, I empathize and even support the initiatives that foment this March. However, although a woman, I know that I am inevitably black first. Thus, I can’t help but feel that by supporting the women’s march is to support the very means of my oppression.

On my a tri-weekly journey to a previous job, I recall seeing a number of protestors outside of Planned Parenthood at the wee hours of the morning seeking to shame female patrons. One protestor stood out from the others—an elderly white man surely north of seventy-five. He stood hunched over, holding an oaktag with a message written in ballpoint pen. I did not bother to read the poster, but judging by the stoic expression on his face, he was there to cast the stones of white male privilege onto the female body. Standing at the intersectionality of race and gender, the black woman knows this gaze all to well. While the literal gaze casts itself onto the black female body countless places throughout North America, the figurative gaze consumes black femininity in its entirety. The women’s march solely speaks to the “woman” component of this gaze, eliminating the most defining characteristic of black female identity.

Reproductive rights in general proves controversial to  the black female trajectory. A quick glance at history reveals that the black female endured sheer deprivation in terms of reproductive rights—her body used as means for mayoral economic franchisement. White women too encompassed an existence that also regarded them as property, however their fair skin warranted privileges denied to the black female body. These exclusive liberties afforded to white women illustrate the concept of “woman” as a privilege solely applicable to non-male whites. Consider the phrasing “black” woman. The label “Black woman” illustrates that black female intersectionality separates black females from the term’s initial meaning. For any “woman” of another marginalized faction, their race or ethnicity always precedes the term woman—proving their genitals deem them female but their race and ethnicity is first and foremost. Femininity is also a privilege extended exclusively to non-male whites. This exclusivity persists as the black female body only earns femininity when adopting western aesthetics and behavior.

Given the exclusivity of the term “woman,” I find it quite disturbing that white women ( and other oppressed groups) call on the black women for support in their times of distress, yet alienate the black female body when their children, brothers and fathers lay slain on the streets or untagged in the morgue. How many white women “said her name” after Sandra Bland was murdered? How many white women were overtly outraged after the Trayvon Martin verdict was rendered?

To take a trip down memory lane, how many white female feminists supported Tawana Brawley in her 1988 trial? If autonomy over the female body is right every woman deserves- why was their no feminist congregation when this young, black girl was sexually assaulted by a number of white men? The answer is simple.  Issues that engage both blackness and femininity become “black” issues instantaneously. This fact reveals that feminism is simply not built to encompass intersectional identities and thereby is not equipped to extinguish black female disenfranchisement.

It seems that former President Barack Obama’s victory disgruntled feminists, who supported this victory as long as it was a symbol of the feminist victory to follow.  It seems feminists felt that history would repeat itself. Namely, black male voting privilege preceded white female voting liberties.  Thus, feminists deemed Clinton’s victory inevitable following Obama’s 2008 victory. Dr. Angela Davis expressed a similar sentiment in the following excerpt from her book Women, Race and Class,

“The representative women of the nation have done their uttermost for the last thirty years to secure freedom for the negro; and as long as he was lowest in the scale of being, we were willing to press his claims, but now, as the celestial gate to civil rights is sIowly moving on its hinges, it becomes a serious question whether we had better stand aside and see ‘Sambo’ walk into the kingdom first.” (Davis 70)

Now that it seems that the black collective has something that the white female collective does not, the bells of white privilege right loudly under the veil of feminism.

Feminism functions to afford white women the same liberties as white men. The main component of these liberties is racism—deeming black female participation in any feminist activity injurious. Thus, to participate in a woman’s march as a black woman is to   march along to the stagnant beat of white supremacy. For the black woman is a queen, but to the western world she will never truly be  a woman.