A meme involving Ellen DeGeneres and Usain Bolt has provoked the ire of the Twittersphere as it has been deemed racially insensitive.
On Monday, DeGeneres’ official Twitter account posted a photoshopped image depicting her riding on Bolt’s back —a clear parody of the viral photo of the gold medalist smiling as his opponents trailed behind him.
The tweet was captioned with, “This is how I’m running errands from now on.”
Apparently, many people on Twitter felt the image was insensitive due to racist implications surrounding a white woman riding on the back of a black man.
Imagine a white-man Photoshop himself riding Elaine Thompson
According to CNN, one of the responders to the photo chided DeGeneres by asking, “So the first thing that pops in your head when looking at this pic is ‘oh let me jump onto his back like he’s a common mule?’”
Bolt has appeared on Degeneres’ talk show and the two have a great rapport, so it’s more than safe to assume that the comedian and talk show host meant no actual harm by the photo.
She was evidently attempting to make a joke about Bolt’s incredible speed, not about the history of whites gaining prosperity on the backs of black people.
Perhaps amid these very tense times, DeGeneres and her social media team should have thought twice about posting an image that could be so easily misconstrued, but the critical backlash she received was a prime example of true overreaction.
Several people of color stepped in to defend DeGeneres, and she also responded by very matter-of-factly stating she is not racist.
“I am highly aware of the racism that exists in our country. It is the furthest thing from who I am,” she tweeted.
I am highly aware of the racism that exists in our country. It is the furthest thing from who I am.— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) August 16, 2016
DeGeneres’ show has given people from all walks of life a platform to be seen, heard, and celebrated. This is the same woman who gave the young, black creators of the viral “Running Man Challenge” $10,000 scholarships courtesy of Shutterfly.
Y'all know Damn well Ellen ain't racist but y'all gon act like she is because it's social media and y'all annoying.— Problematic Bear (@SeanTheTerrible) August 16, 2016
Media are you that desperate!— Horace Towns (@thehoracetowns) August 16, 2016
C'mon Folks, I thought it was funny and I got it, but you know #EllenDeGeneres is not racist.
Ellen is #100
Would someone who just invested in the futures of four black teens then turn around and maliciously perpetuate racism?
There is valid reason for people to question her intentions, considering how much racism among celebrities and public figures has been exposed in the midst of this year’s election.
However, DeGeneres is one who has been very consistent as an inclusive and tolerant personality — especially as she is a revered member of the LGBT community in a highly publicized marriage with her partner Portia de Rossi.
There were no lines to read between in DeGeneres’ decision to post the photo, just playful banter of a friend who sprinted his way to earning gold in Rio.
Donald Trump? Racist.
Clint Eastwood? Racist.
Rudy Giuliani? Racist.
Ellen DeGeneres? NOT racist.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Lucy Nicholson