During an episode of her podcast "The Gift of Girlfriends," Former First Lady Michelle Obama said that white people don't even acknowledge black people exist.
Obama and her guest, Denielle Pemberton-Heard,the CEO of STEMconnector, discussed the incident last May when a white woman called the police on a black man who was bird watching.
“That incident in Central Park, which infuriated all of us, as we watched it, it was not unfamiliar," Obama said. . This is 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.”
“Danielle and I, when the girls were little, this is when I was First Lady,” she continued. “I am Michelle Obama, the First Lady of the United States of America, and 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. It was Haagen-Daaz, wasn’t it?”
“Exactly. Haagen-Daaz," Pemberton-Heard replied.
Michelle Obama: “And there was a line, and once again, when I am 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. And the girl behind the counter almost took her order. And I had to stand up, ’cause I know Danielle is like, ‘Well, I’m not gonna cause a scene with Michelle Obama.’”
“That’s exactly right; it was like, mm-hm," Pemberton replied.
Obama concluded, “So 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. 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.”
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