Even before Mrs. Obama became the FLOTUS race based attacks were aimed at her from White conservatives. They continue on even as pundits like Chris Matthew forgets on air that Barack Obama is Black because despite the lie of the so-called post racial world, Whiteness refuses to give up its undeserved privilege.
Walt Baker, the prominent CEO of the powerful Tennessee Hospitality Association, called Michelle Obama Cheetah the monkey from Tarzan in a supposed joke e-mail last Thursday.
From: Walt Baker To: Albie DelFavero, Bruce Dobie, Butch Spyridon, Joe Hall, Peter Heidenreich, Terry Clements, Toby Compton, Chuck Creasy, Rob Moorefield, Ken Whitehouse, Paul Brown, Bob Davis Date: March 4, 2010 9:18:29 PM CST
Quoting Larry the Cable Guy...I don't care who you are, this is funny...
I was at the store yesterday, and I ran into Tarzan! I asked him how it was going and if he was into anymore movies.
He told me that he could no longer make any more movies as he had severe arthritis in both shoulders and could no longer swing from vine to tree.
I asked how Jane was doing, he told me she was in bad shape, in a nursing home, has Alzheimer's and no longer recognizes anyone, how sad. I asked about Boy, and he told me that Boy had gone to the big city, got hooked up with bad women, drugs, alcohol, and the only time he heard from him was if he was in trouble or needed something.
I asked about Cheeta, he beamed and said she was doing good, had married a Lawyer and now lived in the White House!!!
He sent the following apology after it became public knowledge that Whitehouse called the e-mail disgusting and a public backlash had begun.
"Thursday night I spontaneously forwarded -- to a small group of people -- an email that had been sent to me as political humor. As I forwarded it, I did not think or consider its implications, other than that it was political humor. I am saddened that anyone misinterpreted the sentiments behind the email. I deeply apologize to anyone who is offended by this action. I hope that those who know me realize that the message was not intended to be malicious or hurtful in any way and can find it in their hearts to forgive me."
Only in a white supremacist world could comparing a Black woman to a monkey be considered political humour. I understand that such an attack was used against George Bush; however, White men do not have a history of being called animals to reduce their value and humanity. Racism is what differentiates George Bush being called a monkey and Michelle Obama being called a monkey. During slavery Blacks were frequently referred to as apes to justify that horrendous institution and because racism continues to be institutionalized, actions like this help to reify White supremacy.
It is even more problematic that this construction is aimed at Black women because we have traditionally been understood as the ultimate un-woman. No matter how hard Black women have struggled, we continue to be considered less than by many who pay lip service to equality. Reducing Michelle Obama, the first Black FLOTUS, and suma cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School, teaches all Black women that no matter our struggle, White men continue to wield a significant amount of social power. Such is the power of Whiteness that no matter our achievements, Whiteness is always able to use race to immediately gain an advantage and use power coercively.
It may comfort some that his actions were loudly chastised; however, the fact that this power still exists it what we should be focusing on. We cannot claim that things are getting better because despite the chastisement these racial incidents continue to happen thus reifying the racial divide. If even an incident as clearly racial as calling Michelle Obama a monkey can be justified under making political commentary what hope is there that the more covert actions of Whiteness to demonize Blackness will be recognized as the assault upon the soul that they are?