President Obama Opens Up About Racial Profiling: I’ve Been Mistaken For The Valet
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama open up about their experiences with racism in a new interview with People. The President and his wife sit down with the magazine for an in-depth interview each year, and the latest installment features the couple addressing racial profiling in the wake of the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
“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,” says the President, who admits he has been mistaken for the valet, one of several racist incidents he’s faced over the years. Mrs. Obama recalls another, in which “he was wearing a tuxedo at a black-tie dinner, and somebody asked him to get coffee.”
“I think people forget that we’ve lived in the White House for six years,” says Mrs. Obama, pointing out that they had a rather normal life, for better and worse, before the Presidency. “Before that, Barack Obama was a black man that lived on the South Side of Chicago, who had his share of troubles catching cabs.”
She continues, “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.”
As protests against racism and police brutality continue to take place coast to coast, President Obama reflects, “The small irritations or indignities that we experience are nothing compared to what a previous generation experienced. 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 full interview will appear in the new People issue hitting newsstands Friday. What do you think of the Obamas’ comments?