At yesterday’s Republican National Convention, Melania Trump blew the minds of many by giving a speech that appears to copy word for word parts of a speech Michelle Obama gave in 2008. Though the Donald Trump Campaign itself has called the critique “just really absurd,” it’s pretty difficult to hear Melania’s talk without comparing it to the beautiful words of FLOTUS all those years ago.
This is certainly not the first time we’ve seen someone plagiarize the works of another person for political gain. At the end of the day, though, the theft of a black woman’s speech by a white woman just proves one unfortunate fact: White women often assume that the work of black women is theirs for the taking.
From the #NotYourMule campaign earlier this year to, well, history, there is almost an expectation that white women are going to come for the success of black women. Even the first lady isn’t immune to this issue. After all, what does it say about our culture that a white woman would expect to be praised for literally repeating the words of a black woman?
While white women rarely reach back to bring black women into their success, the assumption that black women are mules meant to be profited from rather than humans in our own right who have a right to our own successes remains intact. What did it mean to Melania to hitch a ride on first lady Michelle Obama’s success? While some have speculated that the theft was a sneaky takedown by a speechwriter, Melania herself has come forward to say she wrote the speech with “very little help.”
It leaves me wondering — is she proud to have stolen a speech from FLOTUS, of all people, for her own gain? Or does she just not see Michelle Obama as enough of a human to deserve recognition and the right to her own success?
It’s beyond disturbing to see a white woman steal from a black woman on a national stage, and I’m just grateful to see her being called out. I hope this horrifying moment in history will remind us to pay attention to the tense dynamic between white women and women of color and will encourage us to recognize the difference in power between the groups.
It’s unfortunate that it may take seeing racially charged theft on a national stage to get us thinking about the role of whiteness in entitled womanhood, but I hope we can progress as women as a result of this shocking event.
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