by Jaylin Paschal

Melania Trump, Michelle Obama, and Theft

 By Jaylin Paschal

“She’s actually a man.”

“Gorilla.”

“Dirty animal.”

“Nigger.”

All comments I’ve seen under photographs of our first lady, Michelle Obama. All repulsive in their attempt to strip the first African American FLOTUS of her womanhood and her humanity.

Now, more often, what I see are side-by-side comparisons of Michelle Obama to Melania Trump. An unflattering, digitally-edited photo of the former, and a gorgeous, digitally edited photo of the latter. The meme’s caption is usually something along lines of “Which would you rather have in the White House?”

As for me, personally, I’d rather have the lawyer with degrees from Princeton and Harvard Law, with high profile experience in Chicago, although, obviously, I know what they were getting at. Michelle Obama hardly gets recognition as a human being from these sorts, so I don’t expect her to get that of an extremely over-qualified public servant.

And because I finally understand, as approaching the end of this final year of the Obama Administration, that the First Lady’s brilliance will almost always be ignored and reduced to her physicality, specifically her blackness, I’m never shocked to see her being disrespected by self-proclaimed racists.

Disrespect is familiar for black women.

This familiarity transcends the digital presence of insults and slurs, and enters the realm of thievery. Black women in this country have always been subject to the seizure of our bodies, our ideas, our inventions, our voices, and our culture.

We’ve seen the fashion trends of stylish black women in the hood thrown onto white models walking some runway in “urban chic” Manhattan shows. We’ve seen our classic, protective hairstyle of cornrows morph into “Kim Kardashian boxer braids.” We live in a world where Iggy Azalea and Miley Cyrus have topped hip hop charts. We've seen dashikis sold in H&M, on white commercial models. We have almost become immune to appropriation, and have reduced our outrage to eye rolls.

Don’t get me wrong, it always hurts. But in the way a flu shot hurts--a familiar sting.

Disrespect is familiar for black women.

But this time,--this instance in which Melania Trump took words from Michelle Obama’s mouth and claimed them as her own--this is different. This instance in which black women must watch the First Lady make it from southside Chicago all the way to the White House and still be a victim to the whitewashing and theft of her brilliance; this instance in which we see a woman who is representative of much more than styling, or braids, or rap, but rather the embodiment of the African-“American Dream”--this cuts deeper.