Michelle Obama opened up about the painful instances of racism she experienced during her eight years in the White House, saying on her podcast that, at times, she felt ‘invisible.’
Even when she was arguably the most powerful woman in the United States, Michelle Obama still couldn’t escape racism in Washington, DC. Obama, 56, revealed on the August 26 episode of her Spotify podcast that she would sometimes leave the White House in disguise for a little alone time at night. People treated her much differently when they didn’t know they were speaking to the FLOTUS.
“I can tell you a number of stories [where] I’ve been completely incognito, during the eight years in the White House,” Obama said, while discussing racism with friends Dr. Sharon Malone, Denielle Pemberton, and Kelly Dibble. “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. And it’s — what white folks don’t understand is that’s so telling of how white America views people who are not like them. You know, we don’t exist. And when we do exist, we exist as a threat. And that’s exhausting.”
Knowing she was the First Lady didn’t actually deter some racists. Obama recalled a disturbing incident that occurred when Sasha and Malia Obama were just little girls. She and Pemberton, who is also Black, took their daughters to get ice cream after a soccer game. “This was when I was First Lady of the United States,” Obama noted. “I had told the Secret Service to stand back, because we were trying to be normal. There was a line, and once again, being a Black woman I notice that white people don’t even see me. They’re not even looking at me.”
“So I’m standing there with two little Black girls [and] another Black female adult. They’re in soccer uniforms. And a white woman cuts right in front of us to order,” Obama continues. “Like, she didn’t even see us… So I stepped up and I said, ‘Excuse me? You don’t see us four people standing right here, you just jumped in line?’ 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.”
The Michelle Obama Podcast airs Wednesday mornings on Spotify.