Barack & Michelle Obama Talk Everyday Racism & Being Mistaken for a Valet With 'People'
In a new interview with People, the most powerful couple in the United States revealed an important and telling experience — even Barack and Michelle Obama have faced racism, and not as long ago as you might think.
In the preview to the full magazine piece, the Obamas detailed to People the "racial prejudice" (read: racism) they dealt with before and, perhaps even more surprisingly, after they got to the White House. Even when she is in the public eye, Michelle dealt with some pretty blatant discrimination:
I tell this story — I mean, even as the first lady — during that wonderfully publicized trip I took to Target, not highly disguised, the only person who came up to me in the store was a woman who asked me to help her take something off a shelf. Because she didn't see me as the first lady, she saw me as someone who could help her. Those kinds of things happen in life. So it isn't anything new.
The president didn't recall any anecdotes from his time in the White House, but offered a frank analysis of how America perceives the majority of black men.
There's no black male my age, who's a professional, who hasn't come out of a restaurant and is waiting for their car and somebody didn't hand them their car keys.
Michelle also retold another cringe-worthy moment:
He was wearing a tuxedo at a black-tie dinner, and somebody asked him to get coffee.
Of course, as the First Lady and President of the United States, these days the Obamas are largely spared from the racism that many black people face on a daily basis. The president noted:
The small irritations or indignities that we experience are nothing compared to what a previous generation experienced. It's one thing for me to be mistaken for a waiter at a gala. It's another thing for my son to be mistaken for a robber and to be handcuffed, or worse, if he happens to be walking down the street and is dressed the way teenagers dress.
The Obamas are also expected to take these "irritations" and "indignities" in stride, but not because they are the President and the First Lady. Not because they are worried about how it will offend white voters if they call out valid race issues. It is because they, just like all African-Americans in the U.S., are expected not to push back against longstanding accepted behavior.
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