Orginal Publication Date
Ethnic Studies Review
Skin-tone has always played a role in the socioeconomic lives of African-Americans, and while there are always successes, there are also those who are not as fortunate. A major success for African Americans has come in the shape of the election of the nation's first AfricanAmerican President, Barack Obama, and, by extension, the first African-American First Lady, Michelle Obama. Among the cries of happiness and hope after the election, there lingers a feeling among many Americans whether Barack Obama would have been elected if he were darker rather than lighter skinned. Though the question is rhetorical at this point the question is nevertheless one asked in many American households. Even after the election and inauguration of the first Black President and the subsequent entrance of the first Black Family into the White House, many critics wonder whether the United States is still a nation absorbed in skin-tone prejudices or has, in the words of the late Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., truly "overcome" them. With such a question in mind, the position of the First Lady becomes a precarious one. While she is not principally responsible for guiding the fate of the nation, her role is a visible one, which makes her presence in the public eye an important one nonetheless. Historically, the First Lady is expected to embody ideals of womanhood such as virtue, beauty, grace, and honor to the nation at large. Up until this point, these ideals have been expressed to young women in this nation as coterminous with the concept of "whiteness." More pointedly, will images of beauty shift away from narrow Eurocentric standards because a Black First Family resides in the White House?
Copyright ©ESR, The National Association for Ethnic Studies, 2009