Although he occupies the most powerful office in the United States, President Obama—in a revealing interview with PEOPLE—reminds us that he is still a Black man living in America.
“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,” President Obama said.
Michelle Obama added that at one black-tie event, an attendee approached President Obama and asked him to get coffee. And pre-2008, she said, he was a Black man in Chicago who couldn’t catch a cab.
The First Lady recounted her own experiences with racial profiling.
“I tell this story—I mean, even as the First Lady—during that wonderful 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,” she said. “Because she didn’t see me as the First Lady, she saw me as someone who could help her. Those kinds of things happen in life. So it isn’t anything new.”
It may not be nothing new, but it further highlights a continued problem with our preceptions of each other.
“The small irritations or indignities that we experience are nothing compared to what a previous generation experienced,” President Obama said. “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.”