Although the West Virginia official who called Michelle Obama an “ape in heels” has been removed from her post, it’s not the first time outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama and the First Lady have been referred to as “monkeys,” “chimpanzees” or “gorillas.” Barack and Michelle Obama will leave the White House in a little more than two months, and yet, people continue to make comments that appear to be racist.
Pamela Ramsey Taylor, director of the Clay County, West Virginia Development Corp., has been removed from her post after calling Michelle an “ape in heels” in a Facebook post. Taylor’s post came a few days after Republican Donald Trump was elected President.
In her scandalous post, Taylor said she was tired of seeing an “ape in heels” as First Lady in the White House, referring to Michelle Obama, adding that it’ll be “refreshing” to finally have “a classy, beautiful, and dignified” First Lady, referring to Melania Trump.
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Racist incidents across the U.S. on the rise
Taylor’s message was addressed to the mayor of Clay, Beverly Whaling, who thought Taylor’s racist ape in heels comments about Michelle Obama were funny and replied to the controversial Facebook post, “Just made my day Pam.”
It took authorities less than 48 hours to make both Pam’s and Beverly’s days working for the city over. More than 85,000 of people signed a petition calling the two officials to be fired. The number is especially staggering considering the fact that Clay County has only 8,910 residents. Interestingly, 98.2% of Clay County’s population is white. Also West Virginia voted for Trump with 68.7% of the vote. Only two-tenths of 1% of Clay County residents are black, according to The Huffington Post.
Both Taylor and Whaling removed their racist Facebook posts, but it was too late. Screenshots of their exchange have been circulating on social media.
Taylor says her life is in danger after “ape in heels” comment
While racist incidents broke out across the country after Trump won the election last week, Taylor claims there has been a life-threatening backlash against her. In her interview with WSAZ, the now-ex director of the Clay County Development Corporation said her Facebook post “may be interpreted as racist but was in no way intended to be.”
Taylor said she has received multiple death threats over her “ape in heels” comment, adding that the backlash against her post “has been a hate crime against me.”
“I am truly sorry for any hard feeling this may have caused! Those who know me know that I’m not of [sic] any way racist!” Taylor said, grasping for any string of hope to remain in power.
But it’s too late for her, as a town council meeting was already scheduled for Tuesday.
Shocking number of racist incidents after Trump’s victory
Even though it’s not the first time some have called Barack Obama and his wife Michelle “monkeys” and “apes,” racist incidents are on the rise following Trump’s election victory. In fact, The Independent claims that they have been more than 200 reported racist incidents since Trump’s victory. Meanwhile, many experts believe the true figure of racist incidents across the U.S. is much more staggering.
It’s “unfortunate that people still have these racist undertones,” said Owens Brown, director of the West Virginia chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Brown, who’s frustrated about the “ape in heels” comments made by his state’s government officials, says that racism is “a reality that we are dealing with in America today.”
“There’s no place for these types of attitudes in our state,” Brown added.
Some keep calling Michelle Obama a primate
In fact, this is the third time over the past three months that officials have gone public with such comments about President Obama and the First Lady. Many interpret the worrisome tendency as Republicans feeling emboldened by Trump, who has made a series of racist comments during his presidential campaign.
Nearly a month before Taylor’s “ape in heels” comment, a Republican candidate for Kentucky’s state legislature, Dan Johnson, shared a picture with very strong racist and offensive connotations on social media. Johnson’s October post included pictures of Barack and Michelle Obamas with ape-like features. The Louisiana bishop also captioned a picture of a baby chimpanzee as being a picture of the outgoing U.S. President when he was a child.
“It wasn’t meant to be racist. I can tell you that. My history’s good there. I can see how people would be offended in that,” the Republican said at the time. “I wasn’t trying to offend anybody, but, I think Facebook’s entertaining,” he added.
In 2008, Barack Obama became the first-ever black person to become U.S. President.
Michelle Obama has a “gorilla face,” Republican official jokes
Republican Charles Wasko, who serves as Mayor of West York, Pennsylvania, was under fire in September for posting a picture of a monkey and saying it was actually a photo of Michelle Obama. He also captioned a picture of a wagon of orangutans as “moving day at the White House.”
Last year, Patrick Rushing was fired from his post as Mayor of Airway Heights, Washington, for saying Michelle Obama has a “gorilla face.” In his Facebook comment posed in July 2015, Rushing called the First Lady “Gorilla face Michelle.”
“Gorilla face Michelle, can’t disagree with that. The woman is not attractive except to monkey man Barack. Check out them ears. LOL,” the former Mayor of Airway Heights wrote.
When he was asked to step down, Rushing refused to resign but admitted that he “made a mistake.” However, he said resigning would mean admitting that he’s a racist. But he said he’s “not” a racist, adding that “it’s just playful back and forth banter that my friends and I do.”
Michelle Obama shows restraint over “ape in heels” and gorilla comments
In 2011, a Republican activist joked that a gorilla that escaped from a zoo was First Lady Michelle Obama’s “ancestor.” Rusty DePass, former chairman of the state election commission in South Carolina, made the joke on Facebook. DePass thought it would be funny to make the comment about the gorilla’s escape from Columbia’s Riverbanks Zoo.
“I’m sure it’s just one of Michelle’s ancestors — probably harmless,” he wrote.
However, he later apologized for his comment and said his comment was “clearly in jest.”
It seems that Michelle Obama receives even more “monkey” comments from other people than she does than her husband. And while those comments have been made by government officials, Michelle has shown restraint and never responded with equally offensive comments because she knows she’s better than this.