CHICAGO (CBS) — Rosanne Barr is blaming the sleep aid drug Ambien for the reason she compared former Obama advisor, Valerie Jarrett, to the offspring of apes. The drugmaker, Sanofi, released a response saying “racism is not a known side effect of the drug.”

Barr’s defenders insist that the racist tweet was just a joke.

CBS 2’s Jim Williams reports such descriptions have long been used to dehumanize African Americans.

“It’s not a new thing, but it is disheartening that in 2018 we’re still talking about people that are using that as the punch, right?” said Kelly Norman Ellis, a professor and department chair at Chicago State University.

“Racists have called African Americans apes,” Ellis points out, “when the first slaves arrived on these shores more than 400 years ago and through and beyond Barack Obama’s presidency. He and the former first lady were depicted in cartoons as monkeys.”

Ellis went on to explain that comparing black people to apes goes straight to the heart of dehumanizing someone.

“That’s why black people respond so strongly,” Ellis stated.

Roseanne Barr tweeted “The Muslim brotherhood and planet of the apes had a baby = VJ.”

Former White House Advisor, Valerie Jarrett responded Tuesday night saying, “I’m fine. I’m worried about the people out there who don’t have a circle of friends and followers who come right to their defense.”

Jarrett is calling the incident a “teaching moment.”

Kelly Norman Ellis says she is teaching her students about the painful, historical context.

“Now when they hear somebody like Roseanne make this comparison, they know where it comes from and they know it’s not a joke,” Ellis explained.

Many are defending Roseanne Barr on social media and attacking ABC for cancelling her show. Barr’s supporters are urging her to fight back.