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Michelle Obama: Essence of African womanhood?

  • Written by Obi Egbuna Jnr Simunye
  • Published in News

JUST as so-called African Americans collectively speaking have spent the previous week attempting to wrap their heads around the idea, that a business tycoon and Reality TV show host with no political experience is now the President elect, the First Lady Michelle Obama was the target of perhaps the most derogatory insults hurled in her direction not only during the eight year tenure she has resided in the White House but perhaps the time she has occupied this planet.Earlier this week it was discovered that Pamela Ramsey Taylor the Director of Clay County Development Corporation located in West Virginia referred to the First Lady as an ape in heels, after stating that it would be refreshing to have a classy and dignified First Lady referring to the wife of the US President-elect Mrs Melania Trump, who will be occupying that capacity after inauguration this upcoming January.

What shocked and angered the entire so-called African American community was the Mayor of Clay County Beverly Whaling a Republican who has the reputation for being progressive and left wing stated that the comment by Mrs Taylor made her day, this explains the reason a place with a population of only 9 244 people could garner international headlines for propagating racist and white supremacist insults in the direction of First Lady Obama.

The shockwaves and negative publicity this incident caused resulted in forced resignations by both Mayor Whaling and Mrs Taylor, which based on the existing political climate inside US borders was inevitable. However, so called African Americans do not have the luxury of letting the ignorance of callous rednecks in West Virginia prevent them from giving an honest analysis concerning how First lady Obama used this unique platform to magnify the contradictions of US imperialism domestically and globally.

Before so-called African Americans begin to contextualise First Lady Obama’s political value and merit, it is widely accepted and understood that her reputation for being elegant and stylish, has been magnified at the expense of diminishing the value of any of the humanitarian and political causes that the First Lady holds dear and close to her heart.

Because First Lady Obama has allowed this narrative to define her persona, we have to begin with how she appears to approach beauty, especially when we take into consideration how the aim of both colonialism and slavery was to force us to psychologically reject our natural African characteristics and appearance.

How First Lady Obama defines beauty regardless of how she is viewed by rednecks in West Virginia is extremely important, especially when her hairstylist Johnny Wright who is a son of Africa, happens to be the artistic style director of Soft Sheen Carson company that for 110 years has been selling our sisters hair care products that soften and alter the natural texture of their beautiful African hair. According to global and award winner of Market research the so-called African American hair care industry is worth 761 million US dollars. Mintel goes on to suggest that this excludes general market brands, weaves, extensions, wigs, independent beauty supply store distribution, e-commerce and study tools which if included skyrockets the value of this industry to 500 billion dollars more than the GDP of Greece.

When Africans at home and abroad look at this dynamic on a Pan African scale this is the African diaspora’s answer to the neo-colonialist frenzy of skin bleaching, that at the moment in Mother Africa is a ritual for 75 percent of women; in Nigeria 59 percent of women and 25 percent of women in Togo.

The hairstyles of First Lady Obama do not just represent the imagination of Johnny Wright, but preservation of the legacy of the First Lady self-made millionaire Madame CJ Walker, who at the height of her popularity watched her products used by African women in Cuba Haiti Jamaica and Panama. It is no coincidence that products aimed at carrying out cultural abandonment found a market in geographical locations where our ancestors were dropped off by slave ships hundreds of years before.

For African youth who are embracing the concept of becoming entrepreneurs it must be taught our attempts at economic empowerment, should not be pursued at the expense of politically economically and culturally crippling our people.

The slogan for Soft Sheen Company is “We Believe in Beauty without Compromise” as First Lady Obama’s face has been paraded in magazines from Vogue to Better Homes and Gardens, we have to raise the question how many times she has publicly appeared in traditional African attire or chosen to braid her hair or wear a traditional African hairstyle. It is tragic she did not follow the lead of Zimbabwe’s First Lady and national Heroine Amai Sally Mugabe or someone she is more ideologically compatible with Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who always wears African attire.

From what we learnt about the infamous Doll test which is the ingenious brainchild of sociologists Drs. Mammie and Kenneth Clark who used experiments with Caucasian dolls in the 30s and 40s to show how so-called African American children were more comfortable playing with these dolls, as opposed to dolls who were their mirror images, and when questioned on the image of beauty chose the Caucasian dolls instead of the dolls that look exactly like them.

A study was reintroduced in 2005 through a film called A Girl Like Me produced by our sister Kiri Davis that showed 15 out of 21 so-called African American girls chose the Caucasian dolls when the Clark experiment was conducted.

The First Lady must ask herself if she during African history month in February had travelled the nation and dealt with this problem, what a marvellous contribution this would have been to help our sisters overcome the hurdle of mental decolonisation. We must not forget that President Obama has openly stated that he later discovered when First Lady Obama saw him for the First Lady time she was delighted that his nose and ears were not as big as they appeared in the directory of their employer at the time, if these comments are true, it is safe to say First Lady Obama would have been confronting her own demons if she chose to take on this campaign.

During her first national interview First Lady Obama told internationally acclaimed journalist Barbara Walters that she doesn’t consider herself Black American but American, which put to rest any notions how she felt about African identity. This means that the Caucasian civil rights organiser and former member of the NAACP Rachel Doezal who posed as an African is more comfortable embracing our heritage than the First Lady.

When it came to numerous attempts to recreate the images of both First Lady and President Obama that resulted in presenting them to the world as torchbearers of our struggle for liberation and human dignity, the so-called African American stands guilty as charged simply because we could not resist the temptation, it was the equivalent of putting children in a room full of toys and candy and telling them not to touch anything.

We have seen images of First Lady and President Obama juxtaposed next to Frederick Douglass Dr. King, Malcolm X and Nelson Mandela, Mary McCleod Bethune, Dorothy Height, Rosa Parks, and Sojourner Truth. The four trips that First Lady Obama took to Africa and the speech she gave to the Young African Leaders Initiative were carefully choreographed, like the movements of performers in a Broadway musical.

While First Lady Obama championed the cause of education, her loving husband maintained US-EU sanctions on Zimbabwe and the monstrous blockade on Cuba, the trailblazers for education in African and Latin America.

The rednecks in West Virginia taught the First Lady a valuable lesson if you are attacked for imitating your enemy’s culture, you might as well embrace your own, in the final analysis it is what comes natural.

Obi Egbuna Jr is the US Correspondent To The Herald and The External Relations Officer For ZICUFA(Zimbabwe Cuba Friendship Association) his email is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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