There is an oft-used trope among the right wing section in the Conservative universe that they consistently revert to when they offer up their list of problems of what is wrong with Black America. According to them, African Americans could easily overcome all the problems in their community with hard work and “pulling themselves up by their bootstraps.” In their particular realm of logic, anyone in America can get whatever they want by putting their nose to the grindstone, but instead, Black people choose to whine about the travails of racism. The Conservative rhetoric believes that at the bottom of all the Negro's woes is the idea that “the Blacks” (as Trump calls us) are perpetually looking for a handout. They’ve even named it. They say Blacks live in a “gimme culture.”
Last night, during the first night of the Republican National Convention, Melania Trump stumbled through a platitude-laden speech about how her husband was going to “make America great again.” Pundits lauded her for igniting the crowd and showing the true American spirit. She talked about how the universal values of honesty and hard work could propel anyone—even a simple immigrant like her—to the unimaginable heights. She was the ideal conservative Barbie—a svelte Slovenian turned inspirational hero who exemplified everything wrong with the gimme culture.
Then they found out she stole it all from a Black woman.
That Melania plagiarized Michelle Obama is not just the definition of irony, it is so symbolic that Black people should now and forever use it as an example of how White America looks down its noses at people of color while simultaneously sucking every bit of talent, effort and creativity out of them for their own purposes. From now on, anyone who seeks to suck the soul out of Black America without recompense should be referred to as a “Melania.”
You can even use it as a verb. For instance, when Black Twitter roasted Justin Timberlake a few weeks ago, it was because his long history as a Melania. They had been waiting in the weeds for him as he shuffle-stepped his way through his career as a second-rate R&B singer who—without his blue eyes and blonde curls—would be opening for Trey Songz. He exposed Janet Jackson’s breast during halftime of the Super Bowl (please don’t say it or remember it any other way. Janet Jackson did not expose herself. Justin Timberlake ripped Janet Jackson’s shirt off.) then tiptoed out of the conversation, escaped all blame and threw her under the bus as if he was never there. That was a perfect example of Melania-ing.
Like how Jack Daniels sat mum for years when historians, Tennessee locals, and people who knew what they were talking about insisted that the company’s recipe had been coddled from Black slaves using African techniques. Instead, the entire lineage of the Jack Daniels empire Melania-ed along, building a vast fortune until they finally reveled in June 2016 that their recipe for distilling whiskey came from Nearis Green, a slave. Waiting 150 years, and amassing a fortune worth a reported 12 billion dollars before you admit you whitewashed your company’s history, is a perfect example of how to Melania.
Melania-ing is not just a Conservative Republican phenomenon. Before she gained the Democratic nomination for president by corralling the Black vote, Hillary Clinton, like many other politicians, demonized Black men. She convinced America that the key to safety and low crime was locking up brown people and bringing those “superpredators” to “heel.” She even advocated building a Trumpian wall. Now she paints herself as someone who always fought for people of color and stood up for Black America because… votes. It’s still a Melania.
After Melania Trump's speech, Joy-Ann Reid pointed out that had Michelle Obama been accused of ripping off someone else's speech she would have been called a “phony and a fraud.” She’s right. If the First Lady had been caught plagiarizing a speech, it would have confirmed all of the dishonesty and lack of intelligence that sections of White America have been trying to foist on the Obamas since January 20, 2009.
But Melania will escape unscathed, because America is used to turning their heads in the other direction whenever someone steals from people of color. Theirs is the real “gimme culture.” They are so used to the privilege of using Black backs as stepping stools that it goes unchallenged. Even the insinuation that Black people want handouts is indicative of the audacity of their thievery.
The funniest part of it all is that after donating millions of Black bodies to the bottom of the Atlantic ocean; after contributing 246 years of free labor to America, turning it into a global superpower; after lending countless corpses to ropes hanging from trees; after allowing our sons and daughters to serve as free targets for police…they have the nerve to say Black people perpetuate a "gimme culture."
OK. Maybe it's not that funny.
Maybe it’s a Melania.