The fact that Michelle Obama still experienced racism in everyday life even as First Lady of the United States should be a wake-up call to all those who don’t see — or refuse to see — persistent inequality in American society!
On the latest episode of The Michelle Obama Podcast, the 56-year-old former FLOTUS spoke up about some unfortunate experiences she’d had during her tenure in the White House. Talking with longtime friends Kelly Dibble, Denielle Pemberton-Heard, and Sharon Malone, the leader got VERY real about this very serious issue.
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Barack Obama‘s wife first described a crazy slight involving a quick trip to an ice cream shop several years ago after a soccer game with her two daughters Malia, now 22, and Sasha, now 19. Though she was First Lady at the time, she wanted to try to lay low and just have a normal outing with the girls and her friend, Pemberton-Heard — until, well, you can read her story (below):
“We had just finished taking the girls to a soccer game. We were stopping to get ice cream and I had told the secret service to stand back, because we were trying to be normal, trying to go in. There was a line, and… when I’m just a Black woman, I notice that white people don’t even see me. They’re not even looking at me. So I’m standing there with two little Black girls, another Black female adult, they’re in soccer uniforms, and a white woman cuts right in front of us to order. Like, she didn’t even see us. The girl behind the counter almost took her order. And I had to stand up ’cause I know Denielle was like ‘Well, I’m not gonna cause a scene with Michelle Obama.’ So I stepped up and I said, ‘Excuse me? You don’t see us four people standing right here? You just jumped in line?’”
WTF?! Worse yet, the woman didn’t even apologize for cutting in line! Like, who can’t even own up to something so simple like that?! Michelle pondered that issue while looking at the bigger picture around instances like the ice cream shop, adding:
“She didn’t know it was me. All she saw was a Black person, or a group of Black people, or maybe she didn’t even see that. Because we were that invisible. What the white community doesn’t understand about being a person of color in this nation is that there are daily slights. In our workplaces, where people talk over you, or people don’t even see you.”
Ugh! So terrible! And unfortunately, SO true.
Obama sounded the alarm even further, noting that anecdote wasn’t a one-off situation, revealing how she could “tell a number of stories like that.” Even despite her worldwide fame, and her time in the public eye for eight freakin’ years, she’s been treated as invisible in such absurd ways.
She added more when further discussing this unfortunate phenomenon, saying:
“When I’ve been completely incognito during the eight years in the White House, walking the dogs on the canal, people will come up and pet my dogs, but will not look me in the eye. They don’t know it’s me. … That is so telling of how white America views people who are not like them, like we don’t exist. And when we do exist, we exist as a threat. And that’s exhausting.”
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Thankfully, though, the proud wife and mother’s podcast didn’t end on such a downer note, even while discussing serious subjects like racism. Ever uplifting, Michelle also admitted her friends — and specifically, her Black female friends — have gotten her through tough times in the past and will continue to do so in the years ahead:
“My girlfriend group, while it is diverse, it has been so important for me to have Black women in my crew. There’s just a certain relief that comes when you don’t have to walk into your friend group and explain yourself. My group of female friends aren’t calling me to say, ‘What can I do?’ They’re calling me to say, ‘How you doin’ girl? Let’s talk.’”
Amen to that! Love it! Still, it’s eye-opening to hear her experiences with racism. And not even, like, long ago in her past, but as First Lady of the United States! That should be a lesson and an example to us all about the need to improve our society in pretty much every way… just saying!!!
[Image via JLN Photography/WENN]
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