Michelle Obama tells of how white people ‘didn’t even see’ her despite being first lady
White America” acts like black women do not exist, former first lady Michelle Obama said on her podcast Thursday while stressing on how she often felt “invisible” to white people in public during her years in the White House.
“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,” the former first lady said in “The Michelle Obama Podcast.”
“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,” Obama said in the episode, which also featured pals Danielle Pemberton-Heard, Kelly Dibble and Dr. Sharon Malone.
“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,” she said.
The former first lady then recalled the moment she went with Pemberton-Heard and her daughters, Sasha and Malia, to get some ice cream after a soccer game during her time in the White House.
“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,” Obama said.
“When I’m just a black woman, I notice that white people don’t even see me. … 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,” she said.
“The girl behind the counter almost took her order. And I had to stand up because I know [Pemberton-Heard] was like, ‘Well, I’m not gonna cause a scene with Michelle Obama,’” she continued. “So I stepped up and I said, ‘Excuse me? You don’t see us four people standing right here, you just jumped in line?’”
The woman didn’t apologize, Obama said. “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.”
Obama, who is a lawyer, accomplished writer, a seasoned orator, among others, has often spoken about the racism she faced as first lady, but not without urging her Black folks to make every effort to succeed despite the challenges.