Michelle Obama says Black people are often invisible to white people: ‘There are daily slights’

Even Michelle Obama has dealt with feeling invisible

Michelle Obama podcast microaggressions
In this screenshot from the DNCC’s livestream of the 2020 Democratic National Convention, Former First Lady Michelle Obama addresses the virtual convention on August 17, 2020. (DNCC via Getty Images)

This week Former First Lady Michelle Obama used her podcast as a platform to not only share her thoughts on racism but also unpack some of the micro-aggressions she’s faced from white people who treated her like she was invisible.

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Wednesday, on the most recent episode of The Michelle Obama Podcast on Spotify, Obama was joined by her close friends, Denielle Pemberton-Heard, Kelly Dibble, and Dr. Sharon Malone.

“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,” Obama said, pointing out how even being the FLOTUS didn’t stop white people from dismissing her. “They don’t know it’s me.”

“White folks don’t understand it’s like that,” she continued, “It’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.”

“What the white community doesn’t understand about being a person of color in this nation is that there are daily slights,” Obama said, “in our workplaces where people talk over you, or people don’t even see you.”

She then shared an anecdote about a time she and Pemberton-Heard were in line waiting to order food after a soccer game with her daughters Malia and Sasha Obama.

“We were stopping to get ice cream and I had told the Secret Service to stand back because we were trying to be normal,” she explained. “When I’m just a Black woman, I notice that white people don’t even see me. … 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.”

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She concluded by recounting how the woman, “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, which has so far featured her husband, family, and some of her accomplished friends, is available on Spotify. In the first few episodes, she’s focused on wellness, service, and family.


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