If Black Women Are So Terrible, Then Why Are You Always Stealing from Us?

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by Kimberly Foster @KimberlyNFoster

On the first night of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, Melania Trump got caught repeating words that had been said eight years earlier by, now, First Lady Michelle Obama at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado.

A perceptive journalist named Jarrett Hill recognized key phrases in Melania’s attempt to paint her husband as a sympathetic caretaker rather than the abject racist his own words suggest.
There is no way that the inclusion of Mrs. Obama’s ideas, nearly word-for-word, was an accident. And the Trump campaign can’t get their story straight on how the mishap occurred. Despite initial efforts to play up Melania’s autonomy as an independent operator, she did not write the speech herself. Trump’s Senior Communications Advisor says it was crafted by “a team of writers.”

So, a woefully incompetent staff cribbed thoughts from a woman who still resides in the White House.

The act, as brazen and thoughtless as it was, merely reflects a centuries old paradigm: When you do not want to do your own work, simply steal that of a more capable Black woman.

In 2008, Michelle Obama did something very intentional with her time on the national stage. Collier Meyerson explains how that the speech was critical to Barack Obama’s first campaign.

"Michelle drew on themes that are, unfortunately, not often associated with black America by white America: that being honest is paramount, that working hard is a must, and that she and her husband take serious stock in the American dream—a dream that has largely excluded black Americans. They were important words for a black woman, specifically, to say on national television."

The stakes are markedly lower for Melania Trump who, we should not forget, was trying to build a case for a candidate, an alleged fraud and thief, with no political experience, whose White House bid is run by incompetents yet continues to flourish.

The day after the speech was delivered, Trump’s campaign head attempted to gloss over the incident and color Melania as an innocent. “…To think she would do something like that knowing how scrutinized her speech was going to be last night is just really absurd,” said campaign manager Paul Manafort.

More “absurd” is expecting the public to believe a tepid defense rather than our eyes and ears that witnessed the proof.

That neither Melania or Trump’s campaign will experience significant consequences for the controversy evidences the maddening sorts of double standards with which Black women contend.

It is the party Trump now leads that has for decades disseminated the Welfare Queen fiction, meant to castigate Black women for being avaricious, lazy, and neglectful. The bitter irony is the racial identity of the woman who was used by the Reagan Administration to epitomize the tax payer’s burden is undetermined. That matters little. A scapegoat was needed and Black women were to be piled upon.

When Black women question the theft of our intellectual and creative labor, we are shouted down. Our concerns are regularly met with disdain, not empathy.
Perhaps many Black women would be more open to the idea of cultural or intellectual exchange if the rules of engagement were fair. But while non-Black people are celebrated for holding up as their own the fruits of our history and culture, Black women, the cultivators and producers of so much that is prized when we are not attached, are cast aside.

Melania Trump’s plagiarism is not a small thing. Or it would not be if she were not a conventionally attractive European woman. To deny that fact is the height of racist hypocrisy. If, for example, Michelle Obama had taken an entire section from a Laura Bush or Nancy Reagan speech, she would have been skewered. There would be no outpourings of sympathy. And an old narrative, that of the shiftless Black woman, too mindless to do her own work, would have re-emerged.

No matter the form of our creative or intellectual work, Black women fight to be seen. Until the ground is level, such egregious transgressions should not be overlooked.

Photo by Mike Segar/REUTERS

Kimberly Foster is the founder and editor-in-chief of For Harriet. Email or

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