What Michelle Obama Means To Us

Alison Samuels over at Newsweek penned an article with the above title. In it she describes how Michelle Obama being first lady is groundbreaking to African American women for many reasons.

When her husband raises his hand to take the oath of office, Michelle will become the world's most visible African-American woman. 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. SOURCE

Is this true? Does Michelle hold so much power in her brown fist?

MichelleOparis

I received an email a while back stating that America's fear was not of an African American president but of an African American First Lady. Remember the first roll our Michelle Obama? She was smart, aggressive and a fierce defender of her husband. Then came the first time in my life I am proud of my country bit. Next the re-roll out of Michelle was more soft-spoken. I am 'mommy-in-chief' Michelle. The first Michelle had one two many teaspoons of 'sass' for the American palate.

Samuels further details how Michelle's looks will challenge even more stereotypes without but also within the African American community. Men of power, African American men of power, tend to marry trophy wives like every other cutlure  of men. Usually it is the light, bright, almost white wife, if not a white woman straight out. I must be honest. I was excited to see the "type" of sista President Obama married. It put to ease my doubts about his 'downness'. You can't get more down than a dark sista from the southside of Chicago.

What say you? Does any of this amount to a hill of beans?

29 thoughts on “What Michelle Obama Means To Us

  1. Taula, I wrote about this today myself. To answer your question I am more exicted about Michelle’s role as First Lady more so than Barack as the first Black President. I feel it will not only challenge Black America but the image of Black women aboard as well.

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  2. I noticed that you wrote about it from a different article. Great minds think alike!
    Black women are so maligned in the media (and by our own people) we could use some positive portrayals.
    So, I will always show love to Michelle O’ on Talulazoeapple.

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  3. I realise it’s impolitic to say this, but Michelle Obama is not remotely attractive physically. It isn’t because she isn’t “light bright.” It’s because her teeth and her jaw seem to be at odds. I wish people (not you, Talula) would stop overlooking or altogether ignoring this. It’s okay to say that brown skin women are unattractive. That doesn’t indicate “self hatred” or even bias against dark skinned black people. it indicates honesty.
    I also wish people would give her proprs because of who she is and not who she isn’t (mixed or mixed looking). I find sickening the implication that Michelle Obama is somehow more black than the women –trophy wives I’ve heard them called– who have lighter skin and straighter hair. She absolutely isn’t and Barack Obama is no more “down” because she’s his wife than he would be if he were married to Heidi Klum or, for that matter, Mariah Carey.
    While I’m at it, I need people to remember that the history is Barack Obama’s election to the White House, not Michelle Obama being First Lady.
    That isn’t to take anything away from Mrs. Obama, who I think is accomplished enough to be given props in her own right. But I’ve heard people say the same thing that jazzy wrote and it bothers me. A black man is president of the United States and people are focusing on his wife? Can anyone imagine people focusing on Barack Obama if his wife had been elected president?
    Barack Obama as president and Michelle Obama as First Lady doesn’t change much of anything where stereotypes are concerned. If anyone thinks differently, walk into an upmarket department store and then get at me.

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  4. LH:
    You say all that as a man, as an African American man raised in the US with all of its implications. That said you are not immune to the influence of the western ideal of beauty.
    Michelle is attractive to Barack and a lot of other men. Her teeth or whatever makes her not perfect but who is. She can get that fixed if she wants to. But to say she is not REMOTElY attractive is wrong. IMO.
    If Michelle was Beyonce’s complexion or Rihanna I think views of her “beauty” would be different, teeth and all.
    This is coming from a woman who is fairly light herself, though not Rihanna.

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  5. I’m not African American. I wasn’t born in the States, my mum was black and my father was white. I’ve never awarded points for race or complexion and I’ve never taken them away. Attractive is attractive to me and Michelle Obama ain’t it. i can’t speak for other men but I assure you that her complexion has nothing to do with my assessment of her lack of physical attractiveness. Mariah Carey is as fair as they come and I’ve never understood why anyone found her attractive. I can say the same for Alicia Keys and Halle Berry. Meanwhile, I think women as dissimilar Linda Evangelista, Tamron Hall, Liya Kebede, Tocarra and Vanessa Bell Calloway are obscenely attractive.

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  6. Calm down, brother. I can call you brother, right? I assumed the African American part so I apologize.
    We all have our opinions. This site shows Michelle O’ love. So when you come at my girl, the west side in me riles up and I gotta let you have it.
    That said, it’s good to have you back. It’s been a minute.

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  7. Oh, no, I’m calm. This is fun! You can call me brother yes. LOL
    As for the West Side in you, though … don’t have me roll through with my 847 (North Shore) crew and shut your whole demonstration down! 🙂
    60093 ’til I die!!!

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  8. @LH
    As a Black woman myself I speak from an angle where I feel black women have been vilified in our society. I am ecstatic to have Michelle as a representative for Black women. Yes she has a strong jaw, she may not be beautiful to you but that does not discount the fact that she is beautiful to many.
    As a woman with a light complexion I know darker women are not viewed as attractive in our society. I would not have been as quick to sip the Obama-aid had Michelle been a white woman. No way no how!
    LH what is wrong with focusing on his wife. Do you for one minute think Barack has such a cavalier attitude about the importance of his as First Lady; because I do not. For you to suggest that because Barack as a Black man who is President that our delight and joy in Michelle at is side is disturbing. Leads me to wonder if you have some misogynistic leanings, in that women should not be as important.
    You are man not a woman. You have not had to experience life as a Black woman in this country. Speak on what you know.
    The fact that you are disturbed by my joy and others joy in our focus being on Michelle goes again to you don’t know American history where Black women are concerned.

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  9. Hi, Jazzy. It’s nice to meet you.
    I have to be honest with you and say that I don’t believe people would consider Michelle Obama beautiful if she weren’t “Michelle Obama.” I also have to say that I don’t believe anyone would be riding for her if she were light skinned. While I’m at it, I’ll add that it seems off-limits to say that a brown skinned to dark skinned woman is unattractive.
    But the truth is that not all brown to dark skinned women are attractive. I don’t see anything about Michelle Obama that would make her physically attractive, and her being brown skinned has nothing to do with it. My thing is that I don’t think she can even close her mouth completely.
    I’m fine with giving Michelle Obama props. I think it’s a big deal that the First Lady will be a black women. But to say that her being First Lady is more exciting than Barack Obama being president –the most powerful person in the world– is difficult to make sense of.
    I am going to always speak up when I see black men being marginalised. I think that by virtue of the fact that Barack is president, the focus should be on him, not his wife. Being happy that she’s at his side is cool, but that isn’t what you said initially.
    This is Barack’s time.

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  10. LH:
    Thanks for not holding my incoherence against me after about 9pm my brain stops functioning on any significant level and returns to primitive mode (eat, sleep, **** [you get the pic])
    “I also have to say that I don’t believe anyone would be riding for her if she were light skinned.”
    I have to say I agree. I could pass a paper bag test and I would have been upset if Michelle were a light skin woman. For simple reasons colorism in Black – American culture is destructive and continues to permeate our society. It continues to create and perpetuated the stereotype that dark skin women are not of value and singularly unattractive. I am glad that you do not have this view but that the fact remains that it is rampant in the Black America.
    “But the truth is that not all brown to dark skinned women are attractive.”
    I could not agree more I don’t find Naomi Campbell attractive or Aelx Wex.
    “I don’t see anything about Michelle Obama that would make her physically attractive, and her being brown skinned has nothing to do with it. My thing is that I don’t think she can even close her mouth completely.”
    This is your opinion and you are certainly entitled to it; however I do I like her style. I will admit that I don’t believe Michelle is beautiful in the conventional sense of the word. I do find her look intriguing and interesting, for me it is a look that causes you to keep looking. (Not sure if that makes much sense but it is the best that I can describe it for now)
    “But to say that her being First Lady is more exciting than Barack Obama being president –the most powerful person in the world– is difficult to make sense of.”
    “I am going to always speak up when I see black men being marginalised. I think that by virtue of the fact that Barack is president, the focus should be on him, not his wife. Being happy that she’s at his side is cool, but that isn’t what you said initially.”
    Mmmm now I do find this very interesting the way you worded this. I want to take a minute to get into it. Not sure how you self-identify with you heritage but I am going to assume you have a soft spot for Black men hence the marginalized comment. Do you think that we as women are doing anything different? Black women are the LOWEST on the totem pole. We have been used and abused my not only our men but white men as well. The history of Black women in this country is one of struggle, pain, and perseverance. Black women were raped and yet they persevered, their men were taken from them yet they persevered, their men left for other women and turned to drugs Black women still persevered. We are continually viewed as over sexualized beings, reduced to the individual body parts.
    The image of Black-American women is severely tarnished. As a Black-American woman I do find it exciting that WE are going to be on the national stage every step of the way. People are going to look at Michelle like they have never looked at another First Lady. I will continue to stand by what I said her as First Lady means more to me than Barack as President. The reasoning for this is simple Black Men have not been so completely marginalized as you may think, there were still prominent Black men throughout American History. This is by no means meant to denigrate the suffering Black men have endured but the fact remains by virtue of manhood men are allowed more privileges than women.
    There will be other Barack’s I hope with the elevation of Michelle that we will see an explosion of Black-Women like her in America instead of the Melissa Fords of this world.
    BTW you completely spoiled my fun I was looking for a fight not meaningful dialogue, woe is me.

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  11. Jazzy, as long as I’m able to follow what you’re saying I don’t get caught up on form. I appreciate meaningful dialogue absent the all too common ad hominen attacks, and am glad that we are able to be honest [with one another] about this.
    When people see me, they see a black man. I’m fine with that, but as appropriate, I clarify that I am in fact biracial. That said, I identify with and have love for black men and black people.
    I have observed black men marginalised and emasculated by the larger society, other minorities, black women and other black men since I began paying attention. My precise reaction depends upon the context but it’s never positive.
    When Barack Obama was elected president, it confirmed what I’ve known all along: we’re the sh*t. Of course, Barack didn’t get where he is alone. Aside from his wife, there were thousands of black women who donated money, organised fund raisers, knocked on doors and drove voters to the polls on his behalf (to say nothing of the efforts of his other supporters). Black men and women can take pride in Barack’s victory. I certainly do.
    When it’s all said and done, though, Barack Obama is president-elect of the United States of America and on the cusp of being the most powerful person anywhere. Michelle is his wife and his partner but this isn’t about her, black women or the road they’ve had to hoe.
    I am eagerly awaiting the day when the accomplishments of a black man can be front and center without someone trying to make them about something or someone else, namely black women. There is no one anywhere who has it harder than black men (except, ironically enough, white women) and yet, now that a black man is about to run the whole thing, folks are sitting around talking about how tough black women have had it?
    When black men are put down for their shortcomings (real and perceived), I don’t hear black women trying to take credit for that. Fair enough, but when it’s time to give props to a black man for achieving greatness, I don’t want to hear black women trying to take credit for that, either.

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  12. “I have observed black men marginalised and emasculated by the larger society, other minorities, black women and other black men since I began paying attention. My precise reaction depends upon the context but it’s never positive.”
    Truly no offense is intended by any of the following:
    I would then begin to question your observational skills. As a woman focusing on women and global health currently, what you described above is the same for women. Many National and International groups such as the CDC and WHO will actually differ with your opinion and categorize women and children as the most marginalized individuals regardless of race or nationality.
    “Michelle is his wife and his partner but this isn’t about her, black women or the road they’ve had to hoe.”
    I will not disagree with you Barack will by virtue of becoming the 44th President will have undeniable influence.
    I think you are looking at this as Michelle is trying to upsrup Barack shine, which could not be further from the truth. What is truth is that there is a Black woman in the highest position in our country and I am beyond giddy about this. What is also fact is that Michelle will be the coming generations Clare Huxtable. What is fact I can be more excited about Michelle’s position and still have the utmost respect for what Barack has acheived. I think you are making the mistake in believing that this is a Black man aganist Black woman issue. It is not and I hope other men don’t view this as such. Barack and Michelle are a unit a great example to all Black people. I happen to have a favorite among the two. This is no different than for example when Kobe and Shaq were together you had a favorite but you also apperaticted the team and what each player could bring to the court.
    The problem that brings strife between Black men and women is pitting us aganist one another. A person can be more excited about Michelle and STILL be proud beyond reason for Barack. Please don’t get it twisted.
    “When black men are put down for their shortcomings (real and perceived), I don’t hear black women trying to take credit for that.”
    Also don’t forget that streets run in both directions. Men are guilty of the same examples you are putting forth on women. If you are going to be honset then truly examine that Black women and men in this country blame one another instead of standing by one another. What you then need to do when you realize this is stop the behaviour you are continuing to perepaturte by saying its a Black man’s time woman get thee behind me. We as Black people can not move forward with that mentality.
    “There is no one anywhere who has it harder than black men (except, ironically enough, white women)”
    ooohhhhh Lawd, Jesus! Please explain this one to me and I mean the white woman comment. Because it is without a doubt that the biggest beneficiaries to affarimative action has been white women.

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  13. Jazzy and LH:
     
    Ya’ll play nice now. I leave for one minute and you guys are engaging in…what? Dialogue!!!!!
     
    L.H.
     
    You are truly tripping with the “white women” thing. However, I do agree that suffering is not a black only event, but it is tricky when you build the hierarchy of who have suffered more.
     
    But by all means, carry on.

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  14. “I would then begin to question your observational skills. As a woman focusing on women and global health currently, what you described above is the same for women. Many National and International groups such as the CDC and WHO will actually differ with your opinion and categorize women and children as the most marginalized individuals regardless of race or nationality.”
    I think it would be more wise to question the perspective from which I’ve made my observations, not my observation skills.
    I’m no garden variety random who regurgitates what he read in Time.
    To give you a sense of my perspective, I have lived on two continents, Europe for almost 13 years and North America for nearly a quarter century. My family is Welsh, English, Portuguese, a little bit of German and African American … and I’ve spoken to all of them about their lives and experiences.
    Since I’ve been in the States I have lived in Illinois, New York state, Alabama and Mississippi. I have met, associated with, gotten to know and befreinded the wealthy, the poor, blacks, whites, Asians, Latinos, native Americans, Hispanics, gays and those whose third language is English.
    Being mixed race (and having a white father), I walk in two distinctly different worlds. I graduated from an HBCU for undergrad and a PWI for grad school.
    Being what’s known as “educated,” I’m well read and well versed. I don’t know everything but I know where to look to learn that which I don’t know. I also enjoy the benefit of speaking to people who are far smarter than I’ll ever be about a limitless range of topics. One of my best friends just earned a Ph. D. in applied mathematics. I regularly speak to a woman who is earning a Ph. D. in anthropology and count a Ph. D. in anthropology among my ex-girlfriends.
    To clarify, I say none of this by way of bragadocio or with even a trace of hostility, but to give you just an idea of whom you’re speaking to. In short, I’m as keen as they come, Jazzy.
    In an American social and historic context, I will reiterate that no one has it worse than black men–precisely because men are considered more powerful than women. Put another way, black men reify black power.
    The decimation of black families (and, indeed, the black race) from slavery through today begins and ends with the marginalisation of the black man.
    And yet a black man has overcome America’s fear of black power to become president-elect of the United States. That’s the headline, the subhead, the lead and the nutgraph, not Michelle Obama being First Lady.
    To be more exicted about his wife being First Lady, a ceremonial position, than a black man runing the show is inconceivable to me.
    Michelle Obama can’t usurp her husband, and that wasn’t my issue. My issue is the idea that her “accomplishment” is somehow more noteworthy than his.
    Jazzy, my vision for a perfect black world isn’t, ‘Woman, get behind thee,’ but men and women walking side by side toward progress, with women deferring to men when appropriate and men respecting and appreciating women.
    But the black race, if it is to be saved, will be saved by it’s men. I’m sure you know who first said that. He was right.
    Jazzy and Talula, no one hates white women more than white men. As recently as earlier this year, William Kristol called them a problem. They were the last group of people in America to be given the right to vote (think about that for a minute). And, in case you hadn’t noticed … a white woman recently finished second to a black man. Again.
    I suggest you do some more reading about the origins of affirmative action and on who’s benefitted most from such schemes.

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  15. “I think it would be more wise to question the perspective from which I’ve made my observations, not my observation skills. ”
    Agreed substitute perspective for observation. In doing this I think that will can both come to a cordial conclusion that our perspectives will differ based on our experience and we will not agree on this.
    Since we are sharing perspectives let me outline mine (thanks for sharing yours)
    Black woman spent most of my life formative years around white people to the point were I actually had identity issues until I reached college. I attended a small liberal arts college, went on to one UT, now at TWU (none of my degrees have anything to do with the other) I simple enjoy learning. My husband and I travel to a new place each year either at home or aboard.
    Had a huge thing for Middle Eastern men to the point were my mom thought I was going to convert to the Muslim religion. Met and married a Black man who above all odds has made it above and beyond the circumstances of his birth. He pays the mortgage not because I can’t but because he feels it is his job.
    So I have the utmost respect for Black men, but my perspective comes from not only experiences as a Black woman but from those that I have heard from my grandmother, mother, and aunts. These women have had to led households alone because their was a present but absent spouse. These women especially my grandmother and her mother have had to endure unspeakable acts because they were women and Black women at that.
    .
    “To be more excited about his wife being First Lady, a ceremonial position, than a black man running the show is inconceivable to me.”
    What I find inconceivable is that you are unable or unwilling (not sure which one it is yet) to understand what Michelle as a Black women means to other Black women. No one is discounting Barack and his accomplishments. I think it is immature to discount anothers opinion just because you find it inconceivable.
    “My issue is the idea that her “accomplishment” is somehow more noteworthy than his.”
    I did not say the word “accomplishment” this is your word and your perspective. For a lot of Black women that have had to see our image demonized in the media, Michelle as the First Lady is noteworthy. You are making this into a she against him type of argument, which is something I can not abide. I am going to enjoy her role I will probably follow her role closer than I will Barack’s. This is a preference, to belittle that into something as trivial as HE should have the spotlight and only him is straight up lame behaviour.
    “But the black race, if it is to be saved, will be saved by it’s men. I’m sure you know who first said that. He was right.”
    I agree and this is the way it was designed to be.
    “And, in case you hadn’t noticed … a white woman recently finished second to a black man. Again.”
    Ok if you want to get snarky about this, the White woman finished ahead of the Black woman, you did know a Black woman ran for president this year right?
    As far as the reading material you can email any suggestions and I would be more than willing to look over them. jazzysaidso@live.com

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  16. “LH”, keep talking; I see a patern:
    Linda Evangelista.. very, very Caucasian looking.
    Tamron Hill… Caucasian facial features.
    Liya Kebede… Caucasian facial features.
    Vanessa Bell Calloway… not as pronounced as the previous three, but Caucasian facial features nonetheless.
    Tocarra… very whorish looking.
    I’m going to stick my neck out on this one. Your very obvious animous towards Michelle Obama comes from her lack of anything that’s caucasian looking about her and from the fact that she’s not whorish looking whatsoever.
    At this point you can curse me out, threaten me, whatever will float your boat. However, I feel that it is only fair to warn you that whatever you say or do, to me, it will be like water off a duck’s back. So if you want to waste your time, be my guest.

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  17. Smooth Thug:
     
    Guys who have a disposition for women with Caucasion features are very defensive about that fact and even in denial. I did not want to point out the common thread in LH’s choices but you did that for me. Michelle Obama has beautiful cheekbones, height, shape. These are things that stand out to me. When I first saw her I thought what a striking woman. I have never considered her ugly or unnatractive. I have heard men in the media describe her as attractive so when someone says the contrary I would like to know the reasoning behind it.
     
    That said. LH is attracted to who he is attracted to. I just hope he understands why.

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  18. Jazzy, thank you for sharing. It sounds as though yours is a rich experience, one that has texture. I both admire and appreciate that.
    Perhaps I misunderstood you, Jazzy; I’m as happy as anyone that black women have someone whom they can look up to and admire.
    But I have to draw a distinction between that and what you said initially, which is that you’re more excited by Michelle Obama being First Lady than you are by Barack Obama’s presidency.
    I have no doubt that if Michelle Obama had achieved a great feat and someone, a black man no less, had written that he was more impressed by her husband than he was with her, people would find that confounding–rightly so I believe.
    I wasn’t being snarky about HRC losing to Obama. Her defeat is a matter of record, notwithstanding her and her husband’s race baiting. Obama v. HRC actually reinforces my point, because at no time could Obama approach playing the so-called sexist card, but she didn’t even bother trying to play it off when she played the race card. And it almost worked. Even now there are white women who are pissed off at Obama not because they think/thought HRC was the better candidate, but because one of their own lost to *gasp* a black man.
    I’ll forward you some links re: AA.
    Thank you, also, for the exchange. This is something I could get used to.
    @ “Smooth Thug”: Um, what?
    @ Talula: Since you hope I understand why I’m attracted to the women I’m attracted to, would you oblige me, please, and offer your opinion about the matter instead of being coy?

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  19. “LH”, you also state, “… I need people to remember that the history is Barack Obama’s election to the White House, not Michelle Obama being First Lady.” So Michelle Obama has not become a historical figure? Then please do me a big favor and name me another Afro-American female who was the very first Afro-American First Lady. Can you be so kind as to do that for me please? I really would like to know.
    Here’s a fast rundown on Michelle:
    1) Highly educated; graduated from Princeton.
    2) Has a very beautiful family.
    3) Doesn’t spend her time slutting all over town.
    At this juncture, please review my comments above concerning being “my guest.”

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  20. Nice.
    For a minute there, I thought the not-so-subtle suggestion you were making was that, you know, I have “issues” because all of the women I listed weren’t stereotypically African looking–whatever that really means.
    The problem with such a suggestion –if that’s where you were going– is that Halle Berry and certainly Mariah Carey/Alicia Keys appear biracial and yet I don’t find them attractive, either.
    To draw a fine point on it, Michelle Obama and Mariah Carey look nothing alike.

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  21. I am an African American man and I can readily admit that Michelle Obama’s role as first Lady is far more important than Barack’s role as President. This is because she shares in the true legacy of the African American experience, Barack does not. This is not an opinion this is a fact. This is why white America was and is so uncomfortable with her and not him. Remember he is half white, and his father was African but not African American. This is not about African Americans against Africans. This his about a shared experience and legacy that is unique to African Americans whose forefathers served and slaved for 400 years under the most suppressive, brutal and racist system ever to exist on the planet. My mother was born in South Carolina just like Michelle and I’m sure at night when the family sat down to eat dinner, the conversations at the table were very similar to what my mother and myself were exposed to. Barack did not see the stress and humiliation on his fathers face because he had to deal with and accept a racist environment that did not want and still does not want a black man to advance. I know what this is like, I work in and for corporate America and the way white people deal with African Americans and people of African decsent from other parts of the world is different. It is different because they know that we know and experienced as African Americans how racist they, meaning white Americans are and can be. That is why Michelle makes white people so uncomfortable, because they know as an intelligent black African American woman whose father, mother, brother, sister, grandfather, grandmother, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc., that share in and experienced and absorbed all of the hate and racism of this country, she serves as a symbol of all of that, weather she likes it or not. To white Americans she is the sum total symbol of the guilt, fear of retaliation, un-paid reprations, and a monumental apology that white America owes African Americans like Michelle Obama not Barack Obama, and this fact makes white people very uncomfortable with Mrs.Obama So to sum it all up, yeah Barack’s accomplishment is cool and will no doubt be very inspirational to millions of males of African descent, but as far as I’m personally concerned as an African American, ALL EYES ON MICHELLE OBAMA!!!

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