Melania Trump is in Africa wearing colonialist hats, and we have questions

The first lady made waves with yet another piece of problematic and insulting clothing.

First lady Melania Trump looks out over Nairobi National Park in Nairobi, Kenya, Friday, Oct. 5, 2018, during a safari guided by Nelly Palmeris, right. First lady Melania Trump is visiting Africa on her first big solo international trip. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Melania Trump has spent the last week in Africa for some reason. She has refused to say why.

As is often the case with the Trumps, the purpose of their moves is often shrouded in racism, be it overt or covert. This time around, Melania is making waves with yet another piece of problematic and insulting clothing.

On the heels of rocking the infamous “I really don’t care. Do you?” jacket when she went to visit migrant children detained by her husband’s administration in June, this trip through Africa has featured her sporting a shiny white pith helmet – a long standing symbol of colonialism.

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The helmet, often seen for years in movies set in African nations like Indiana Jones and any number of the James Bond films is an enduring symbol of European, particularly British and French, colonialism.

Her trip through four African nations—Ghana, Malawi, Egypt, and Kenya—has featured her doing many of the things you would expect of someone going on a stereotypical vacation through the Motherland, including going on a safari and visiting the Sphinx.

It has even triggered the Twitter hashtag #FLOTUSinAfricaBingo. Kim Yi Dionne, a political-science professor who specializes in African politics at the University of California, Riverside created the hashtag and told the New York Times that her questionable choice of attire is more about her antiquated understanding of Africa.

“When people think of Africa, they have these standard narratives,” Dionne said. “Her attire is a signal of her understanding of what Africa is in 2018. It’s tired and it’s old and it’s inaccurate.”

That she threw on the helmet in Kenya, the birthplace of former President Barack Obama’s father – in the past, Melania has helped advance the racist lie that Obama was not an American citizen – added more fuel to the fire.

“It’s like showing up to a meeting of African-American cotton farmers in a Confederate uniform,” Matthew Carotenuto, a coordinator of African Studies at St. Lawrence University, wrote on Twitter. “Historical context matters.”

It’s the latest in a long line of hypocritical moves by the Trumps, particularly when it comes to communities of color.

She participated in a ceremonial donation of one million textbooks in Malawi last week, even as her husband has suggested cuts to foreign aid.

So, perhaps, it might not be difficult to see the worst behind the woman who wants people to “Be Best.”

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