This Meme of Obama and the President-Elect Nails Why Race Trumps Experience

December 15th 2016

Danielle DeCourcey

There's been a lot of conversation about race in America because of a recent meme that makes some pointed comparisons between President Barack Obama and Donald Trump. 


Author Ta-Nehisi Coates while on "The Daily Show" Tuesday to discuss an interview with Obama that he wrote for the Atlantic, titled "My President was Black," made some comments on race to host Trevor Noah that turned into a viral meme.

"If I have to jump six feet to get the same thing that you have to jump two feet for ― that’s how racism works," he said while comparing the accomplishments of Obama to the president-elect who he added merely had to be "rich and white" in order to get into the oval office. 

"Daily Show" interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Many Facebook users wrote on the meme, which has thousands of comments, in agreement that there's a double standard at play. 

"The Daily Show" interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates.

"The Daily Show" interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Others commented that Trump simply was a more appealing candidate than his opponent, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. 


"The Daily Show" interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates.

"The Daily Show" interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Whether or not the comparison between Obama and Trump is fair, there are significant racial disparities in their political careers which may be a sort of byproduct of the U.S. political landscape.

The current Congress is the most racially diverse in history but it still falls below the racial diversity of the nation, according to the Pew Research Center. Non-white members of Congress make up 17 percent of the body, but 38 percent of the nation's population is black, Latino, Asian/Pacific Islander or Native American. 

Capitol Building at Dusk

Also, black workers receive more criticism and harsher consequences at work, according to a 2012 report from the National Bureau of Economic Research. "While white workers are hired and retained indefinitely without monitoring, black workers are monitored and fired if a negative signal is received," wrote the report's authors.

Black Americans also have less money. Forbes wrote in September that income inequality between white and black Americans is worse now than it was in 1979. 

Coates' argument also touches on a popular black American saying that first lady Michelle Obama has referenced in the past. 

Michelle Obama speaks at Tuskegee University

Most black kids have heard the age-old saying from their parents or elders that in order to succeed they have to be "twice as good to get half as much" as white Americans. While the meme can be interpreted a number of ways, the saying reinforces that black Americans have to work twice as hard or be twice as smart, despite any discrimination they may face because of the color of their skin, in order to earn some form of success. 

The traditional advice even made an appearance in a 2014 episode of ABC's hit show "Scandal" when Kerry Washington's character Olivia Pope is scolded by her father. “You have to be twice as good as them to get half of what they have,” said Rowan Pope to his daughter. 

The first lady gave a commencement speech to Tuskegee University, a historically black college in Alabama, in May 2015. In an opinion piece for The Guardian, Britni Danielle wrote that the speech was Obama's take on the "twice as good" mantra. 

"Obama said she decided to 'ignore all of the noise' and instead focus on being 'twice as good' in every area of her life, from her early days at Princeton, to her tenure as vice president for community and external affairs at the University of Chicago Hospitals, and finally in the White House," wrote Danielle. 

Michelle Obama speaks at King College Prep

However, "twice is good" is still not good enough for many Americans.

"Despite growing up on the south side of Chicago – one of the city’s toughest neighborhoods – Obama has lived an extraordinary life; she is the embodiment of Washington’s 'bootstrap philosophy,' which argues that anyone, no matter what their circumstances, can rise to the top," Danielle wrote. "Unfortunately, this just isn’t true for most Americans."

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