The Obamas Reveal Their Struggles With America’s Racial Prejudices 

An exclusive People magazine article with the first couple, set to hit newsstands on Friday, details their experience with racism.

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama sort toys and gifts donated by Executive Office of the President staff to the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling on Dec. 10, 2014, in Washington, D.C.
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama sort toys and gifts donated by Executive Office of the President staff to the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling on Dec. 10, 2014, in Washington, D.C. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

In case you thought otherwise, the Obamas aren’t immune to the ugliness of American racial prejudices and biases, the first couple confirmed in a sit-down interview with People magazine on Dec. 10.

“I think people forget that we’ve lived in the White House for six years,” first lady Michelle Obama explained to the magazine. “Before that, Barack Obama was a black man that lived on the South Side of Chicago, who had his share of troubles catching cabs.”

The first lady pointed to one of her favorite anecdotes, a trip to Target, where people were completely uninterested in her, until one lady asked her for help.

“I tell this story—I mean, even as the first lady—during that wonderfully publicized trip I took to Target, not highly disguised, the only person who came up to me in the store was a woman who asked me to help her take something off a shelf. Because she didn’t see me as the first lady, she saw me as someone who could help her. Those kinds of things happen in life. So it isn’t anything new,” Michelle Obama told People.

The president also spoke about his own run-ins with casual racism. “There’s no black male my age, who’s a professional, who hasn’t come out of a restaurant and is waiting for their car and somebody didn’t hand them their car keys,” President Obama said.

The first lady told People about one incident when her husband was wearing a tuxedo to a black-tie event and one individual, assuming that he was a waiter, asked him to get coffee.

The president admitted to People that although race relations have gotten much better over the years, more work is still to be done. “The small irritations or indignities that we experience are nothing compared to what a previous generation experienced,” he said. “It’s one thing for me to be mistaken for a waiter at a gala. It’s another thing for my son to be mistaken for a robber and to be handcuffed, or worse, if he happens to be walking down the street and is dressed the way teenagers dress.” 

The issue hits newsstands Friday.

Read more at People.

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