Being cut off in line at an ice cream store was an indication of the deep-seated prejudice black Americans face on a regular basis, Michelle Obama suggested in a recent podcast.
During the podcast, the former first lady also indicated that when she traveled “incognito” during the years of the Obama administration, there were times when white Americans failed to recognize her.
She made this claim despite the fact that in both 2018 and 2019, Americans polled by Gallup voted her the most admired woman of the year.
Obama’s comments in the podcast episode released Wednesday followed discussion of a May interaction between a white woman walking a dog in New York City’s Central Park and a male African-American birdwatcher in which the woman claimed the man was threatening her.
“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.”
Obama then talked about a stop that she, Denielle Pemberton-Heard, who was on the podcast, and Obama’s two daughters made for ice cream. Obama, who was first lady at the time, recalled she “had told the Secret Service to stand back because we were trying to be normal, trying to go in.”
But there was a line, and no one seemed to care that Michelle Obama was in the store.
“There was a line, and once again, being, when I’m just a black woman, I notice that white people don’t even see me. They’re not even looking at me,” she said.
Then came a bit of urban rudeness common to most major metro dwellers.
“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,” the former first lady said, noting that she had to speak up to avoid being skipped.
“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?'” Obama said.
“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,” she said.
Obama suggested the incident was an indicator of how white Americans treat black people.
“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,” she said.
“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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