Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Obamas Speak On Racist Experiences, Spark #ThingsMichelleObamaThinksAreRacist?

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#ThingsMichelleObamaThinksAreRacist began to trend on Twitter after an interview with President Obama and Michelle Obama revealed their first-hand encounters with racism. The first couple spoke honestly and openly with People Magazine about the tough questions America is facing over race in the wake of recent police killings of unarmed black men.

The President recalled a time when he was handed car keys to fetch the vehicle at valet-parking, while he waited outside a restaurant after dinner saying that happens to a lot of black men.

'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.'

Michelle Obama said that prior to holding the most powerful position in the U.S., her husband faced his share of prejudice.

'Before that, Barack Obama was a black man that lived on the South Side of Chicago, who had his share of troubles catching cabs. He was wearing a tuxedo at a black-tie dinner, and somebody asked him to get coffee.'

'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.'

'These incidents in the black community, this is the regular course of life. These are the challenges that we still face as a country.'

President Obama agreed, saying that while racial relations have gotten better, more progress is needed.

When you're raising black kids you have to talk about these issues, because they're real. 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 President said basketball superstar LeBron James did the right thing when he wore an 'I can't breathe' T-shirt - referring to the chokehold death of Mr Garner - on to the court. He told People:

'I think LeBron did the right thing. We forget the role that Muhammad Ali, Arthur Ashe and Bill Russell played in raising consciousness. I'd like to see more athletes do that - not just around this issue, but around a range of issues.'

The Obamas said now their daughters, Malia, 16, and 13-year-old Sasha were older, the family were able to discuss more difficult questions facing the African-American community. Mrs Obama said:

'When you're raising black kids you have to talk about these issues, because they're real.'

The President said they try to get Malia and Sasha to reflect on stereotypes, particularly on 'how they think they should have to act as African-American girls'.

He added that following the cases of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin:

'Around the dinner table we're pointing out to them that too often in our society black boys are still perceived as more dangerous, and it will be part of their generation's task to try to eradicate those stereotypes.'

I can see why people were not happy that Michelle Obama added being asked by a fellow customer to bring something down from a high supermarket shelf as racism. I know I do that at times when I go shopping alone, and there's a tall person in the same aisle. That's not racism, but her point remains.

What do you think of the first couple's experiences?

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