Michelle Obama opens up about racism she experienced while she was First Lady

By Zach Harper

Michelle Obama has used her latest podcast episode to share how racism affected her while her husband, Barack Obama, was President of the United States, and is thanking her friends for being incredible supports while she lived in the White House.

The mother of two brought her friends Kelly Dibble, Denielle Pemberton-Heard and Sharon Malone on The Michelle Obama Podcast this week. They discussed their friendship and how the three of them helped her while she and Barack and their daughters Malia and Sasha were living at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Michelle used the conversation to point out that the racism she faces as a Black woman didn't disappear because her husband was the world's most powerful person. She shared an experience from that time to illustrate her point.

She said she and Denielle had taken Malia and Sasha to a soccer game, and while the secret service was watching them all, Michelle decided her girls should have some ice cream.

"There was a line and... when I'm just a Black woman, I notice that white people don't even see me," she said. "They're not even looking at me."

She said while the four of them were waiting in line, a white woman cut in front of them – despite them being next to be served.

Malia, Michelle, Barack and Sasha pose with their dogs Bo and Sunny in the Rose Garden of the White House during Easter 2015. Photo: © Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images

"Like, she didn't even see us," Michelle continued. "The girl behind the counter almost took her order. And I had to stand up 'cause I know Denielle was like, 'Well, I'm not gonna cause a scene with Michelle Obama.' So I stepped in and said, 'Excuse me? You don't see us four people standing right here? You just jumped in line?'"

Michelle said she didn't receive an apology from the woman, who she also said still wouldn't look at her – and had no idea who she'd just butted in line.

"She didn't even 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."

The 56-year-old said the reaction she received when pointing out she, her daughters and Denielle were in line happens often. She said it was something she experienced frequently while living in the White House and interacting with strangers.

"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," she said. "They don't know it's me."

Michelle credited Denielle, Kelly and Sharon with helping her through her time in the White House, which she said wasn't easy, but she was glad to have the support of friends during those eight years.

"My girlfriend group, while it is diverse, it has been so important for me to have Black women in my crew," she said. "There's just a certain relief that comes when you don't have to walk into your friend group and explain yourself."

Michelle laughs while her brother, Craig Robinson, speaks during the Aspen Institutes 2016 Project Play Summit in Washington, D.C. in 2016. Photo: © Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images

So far on her podcast, Michelle has been joined by her brother, Craig Robinson, Sharon (who is also a gynaecologist), Barack and journalist Michelle Norris. The podcast has touched on the Black Lives Matter protests following the death of George Floyd and that are continuing after the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisc., her childhood and even menopause. You can listen to it through Spotify and iTunes now.

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