Throughout the history of the United States, presidents have been continually criticized and threatened. Weather it be in political cartoons, social media or protests, there has always been some sort of threat directed toward the president. However, none of the 44 white presidents have had to suffer through the amount of threats that our previous president, Barack Obama, has. The first African American president endured threats upon threats, most of which had some basis in race. Every time you think that the criticism Trump is receiving is ridiculous, remember that what happened to Obama was much worse.
There is a complete double standard when it comes to how white presidents can be portrayed in comparison to the way black presidents — or, rather, the black president — can be portrayed. Recently, Kathy Griffin posed for a photo holding president Trump’s bloody severed head. She was then fired from CNN and targeted by a large mass of people. She even said, “What’s happening to me has never happened in this great country. A sitting president of the U.S. is personally trying to ruin my life forever.”
It’s true that the president himself fighting back is unusual, but presidents being threatened is a regular thing. When Barack Obama was president, photos and figures of him being lynched became commonplace. Obviously, depicting a lynching is overtly racist. But what’s the difference between Trump being beheaded and Obama being lynched? First of all, the public’s reaction to these two situations varied significantly. I personally haven’t heard or known about the photos and fake practices of Obama being lynched until very recently, because no one in the public talked about it much and no one really seemed to have cared, but when it comes to Kathy’s picture of Trump, that’s all that anyone seems to talk about. Secondly, Obama being lynched is portrayed as freedom of speech and a way to protest his presidency while Trump’s bloody head is seen as making a direct threat and should be a federal offense in the eyes of many.
There are many other ways in which Obama was treated very differently when compared to all of the other white presidents. George W Bush received 3,000 threats a year, but Barack Obama received 12,000. Obama is the most threatened president in the history of the United States. But that’s not even the deepest double standard. The double standard lies in how low-key all of these threats have been for Obama. It seems that whenever anything happens to Trump, we know about it right away. But again, no one really talked or seemed to care about all of these threats being made to our first African American president.
Many might say that this happens to every president and that getting threats is what comes along with the job of ruling the country. Yet, what many people don’t realise is the huge difference in the amount of threats between white presidents and Barack Obama, the difference in the public’s reaction to these threats as well as the difference of what is acceptable for threats of a black president when compared to the threats of a white president.
The double standard not only lies in the threats, but also our lack of knowledge and the media’s failure to draw equal attention to them.
This piece was produced by a student journalist in the Madison365 Academy. To learn more and support our educational programs, visit madison365.org/academy.