Sunday, November 23, 2008

Michelle Obama: World's Most Visible African-American Woman

"Michelle Has the Power to Change the Way African-Americans See Ourselves, Our Lives and Our Possibilities"

NEW YORK, Nov. 23 /PRNewswire/ -- Without even stepping into the White House, Michelle Obama has already accomplished a great deal in raising the profile of African-American women, Newsweek National Correspondent Allison Samuels writes in the December 1 cover, "The Meaning of Michelle" (on newsstands Monday, November 24). "When her husband raises his hand to take the oath of office, Michelle will become the world's most visible African- American woman," Samuels writes. "The new First Lady will have the chance to knock down ugly stereotypes about black women and educate the world about American black culture more generally. But perhaps more important -- even apart from what her husband can do -- Michelle has the power to change the way African-Americans see ourselves, our lives and our possibilities."

Michelle Obama challenges the typical stereotype of African-American women, including what is beautiful. Often, the standard of beauty for black women has meant fair skin, and dainty facial features, a limited scope that has had a profound effect on the self-esteem of many African-American women. Michelle Obama puts a new face on the standard of beauty. "Michelle is not only African-American, but brown. Real brown," Samuels writes. "In an era where beauty is often defined on television, in magazines and in movies as fair or white skin, long straight hair and keen features, Michelle looks nothing like the supermodels who rule the catwalks or the porcelain-faced actresses who hawk must-have cosmetics. Yet now she's going to grace the March cover of Vogue magazine -- the ultimate affirmation of beauty."

It remains to be seen what Michelle Obama will accomplish if she takes on substantial issues. "I'm hoping the whole "Mom-in-Chief" role will leave plenty of room for Michelle to tackle significant, meaty issues even if she's not clamoring for a West Wing office, Samuels writes. "But she'll have another dimension to worry about: if she focuses on the black community -- helping urban schools, say -- will her interests be viewed as too parochial? And while every First Lady -- and plenty of professional women -- walk the line between being confident and seeming like a bitch, African- American women are especially wary that being called 'strong' is just another word for 'angry'."

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