I knew someone black was going to come to the defense of former Univision host Rodner Figueroa, who was recently fired after he compared First Lady Michelle Obama to Planet of the Apes. I guessed Don Lemon, maybe Stacey Dash. They’ve both made a brand out of going right when all the other black people go left. It gets them more attention. But you know who else is starting to do that too? Raven-Symoné.
Yesterday, she visited The View as a guest host. And when the topic of Figueroa’s comments about FLOTUS came up, Raven-Symoné wondered if he was actually being racist in comparing the First Lady to an ape, an allusion with historically racist implications.
“But was he saying it ‘racist-like?’” Raven-Symoné interjected, as if there is anyway to compare a black woman to an ape that’s not racist. “Because [Figueroa] did say he voted for [Obama] later and I don’t think he was saying it racist.”
Huh? Is this like the Oklahoma SAE frat guy who sang about lynching black folk to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” and when he was called racist, he posted a picture of a black girl he took to the frat’s dance one year? Because, you know, a date with a black woman at any point in history automatically cancels out any possibility of ever being racist, even when doing something blatantly racist, right? Is Figueroa that kind of not racist?
Things got more confusing as Raven-Symoné kept on. “Not Michelle… but some people look like animals,” she added. “I look like a bird, so can I be mad if somebody calls me Toucan Sam?”
Um… last I checked there were no historically racist implications about African-Americans and the bird on the Fruit Loops box. And while Raven-Symoné may be under the impression that she looks like a beloved feathered friend — I disagree, but she’s entitled to think what she wants about her appearance — Michelle Obama doesn’t look anything like a damn ape. So what does Symoné thinking she looks like a bird have to do with anything at all?
From most black folk, this would be a brain fart, like the time Sherri Shepherd couldn’t make a solid call on whether the world was flat, or round. But Symoné — not to be confused with cute “Olivia”, who she played on TV over two decades ago — is starting to show a pattern of ignorance when it comes to race (and sexuality). And she’s starting to seem deeper in the Instagram memes of “Olivia” than she does in actual grown-up interviews.
In October, she had a sit down with Oprah where she just sounded utterly confused. “I don’t want to be labeled gay…. I’m a human who loves other humans.… I’m American not African-American. I don’t know what country I’m from in Africa, but I do know I have roots in Louisiana. I’m an American, and that’s a colorless person.”
To who? Don Imus? Paula Deen? The Ferguson PD? The NYPD? George Zimmerman? Or…
Now look, I’m not one of those black people that think black folk are a monolith, that we should all have the same perspective on everything. But some things are just so blatantly racist, like equating a black woman to an ape, that I’d just expect even the most open-minded, far-right leaning black folk to stand down. I mean, the guy who thinks FLOTUS looks like an ape, and actually says it on TV, probably doesn’t think any better of Black-ish Raven-Symoné, or actually-identifies-Black everybody else, you know? Symoné should save her breath coming to his defense, and maybe when it comes to talking, period. We’ve already had one The Cosby Show member screw with our nostalgic memories of the show. We certainly don’t need another.
Demetria Lucas D’Oyley is the author of Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love as well as A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. Follow her on Twitter at @abelleinbk.