“There’s 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?’ You guys are calling me to say, ‘How you doin’ girl?’ You know, ‘let’s talk.'”
Michelle Obama Recalls Racism She Experienced As The First Lady: People Would Not Look Me In The Eye
Michelle Obama’s FLOTUS title didn’t make her exempt from experiencing racism during her days in the White House.
She has now detailed one of the unfortunate incidents she experienced while serving as the First Lady of the United States for two terms.
She recalled on the latest episode of The Michelle Obama Podcast a time when she and Barack Obama’s daughters, Sasha Obama and Malia Obama went to get ice cream from Haagen-Dazs with a friend, Denielle Pemberton-Heard, who is also a black woman.
“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 once again, 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.”
Michelle Obama said she spoke up after the woman at the counter almost took the other lady’s order.
“I stepped up, and I said, ‘Excuse me?’ I was like, ‘You don’t see us four people standing right here, you just jumped in line?’ She didn’t apologize, she never looked me in my eye, 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.
“I can tell you a number of stories like that 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.”
She said that her experience with some of her white counterparts can be “exhausting.”
“What white folks don’t understand, it’s like that is so telling of how white America views people who are not like them. You know, we don’t exist. And when we do exist, we exist as a threat. And that, that’s exhausting.”
She added that this reality is what makes her thankful for her close, black friends.