Professor Robert Smith: Obamas Changed Stereotypes of African American Families

Friday, January 20, 2017
AFRO AMERICAN -- Robert Smith, a political analyst at San Francisco State University, agreed that the Obamas’ very “presence” and the visibility of their successful, intact family changed stereotypes about what black family life looks like. But the historic nature of being the “first” African-American anything — and even more so the first lady of the United States — brings with it an additional level of challenge. There was also an additional degree of criticism that often took a vicious, personal bent that went past mere politics — as in when The New Yorker played into the “angry black woman” trope in its depiction of Mrs. Obama with an Afro and machine gun in her first appearance on a magazine cover, when a Wisconsin Republican disparaged her “large posterior” or when a West Virginia nonprofit director called her an “ape in heels.” “She has been the target of a number of unfair attacks because of her being ‘insufficiently American’ in the eyes of some people,” Smith said.