Michelle Obama says as Black Americans, she and former President Obama “never could’ve gotten away with some of the stuff that’s going on now” in the White House because their “community wouldn’t have accepted that.”
The former first lady opened up about race in an episode of her eponymous Spotify podcast released this week.
Speaking with her mother, Marian Robinson, and her brother, Craig Robinson, in a show focused on parenting, Obama recalled the time as a child when her older sibling got stopped by the police.
“You were riding down the street and you got stopped by the police, and they accused you of stealing your own bike,” Obama remembered. “And they would not believe you, to the point where you were like, ‘Take me to my home.'”
Craig Robinson, now an executive director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, said the incident when he was 10 or 11 years old was “terrifying” and left him “heartbroken,” especially because he was “always taught that the police are your friends … and they’ll believe the truth.”
“What a lot of folks who are not in our position don’t understand is that this is such a way of life when it comes to interacting with the rest of the world,” Obama said. “It doesn’t matter who you are and what kind of values you have, nobody thinks about the fact that we all come from good families that are trying to teach values.”
“When you leave the safety of your home and go out into the street, where being Black is a crime in and of itself, we have all had to learn how to operate outside of our homes with a level of caution and fear, because you never know,” Obama, 56, added.
Obama said “almost everybody” she knows has had “some kind of incident where they were just minding their own business but living Black, and got accused of something.”
From a young age, Obama said, Black children are taught that people will assume the worst in them because of their race.
“So you’ve got to be better than, you’ve got to be 10-times better than,” she said.
“When we were in the White House, we could’ve never gotten away with some of the stuff that’s going on now, not because of the public, but our community wouldn’t have accepted that. You worked, you did your best every day. You showed up,” Obama said.
Referring to nationwide protests against systemic racism and police brutality sparked by the May death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police, Obama said, “The fact that there are people out there that treat us less than, when we’re working so hard to be better than, that’s where the pain comes from. That’s what these young people are so angry about.”
“The notion that people are out there wondering about these protests,” Obama said, “it’s like, do you know how much it takes, that it takes to get up everyday, and be accused of being less than what you are?”