President Obama and Misty Copeland discuss they lessons they learned about race growing up, and what they teach young people about being African-American.
In the final installment of TIME and ESSENCE’s three-part video series, President Obama and Misty Copeland share the lessons they’ve learned and taught as African-Americans.
“I feel like my mom pretty much covered everything with me,” says Copeland, “Being biracial she made it very clear to me that ‘yes, you are Italian, you are German, you are Black, but you are going to be viewed by the world and by society as a Black woman and you should be prepared for that.’ I think that being very shy going into a setting where I was the only Black woman allowed me to observe more rather than react and I think that saved me a lot and it taught me a lot and it’s allowed me, when I’m interacting with my mentees, to say to them ‘there are ways that you have to approach certain situations that may be difficult or may not be fair, but it’s how you represent yourself.”
As a father, issues of race, representation, and how the world views people of color are things Obama often discusses with his family at the dinner table. It’s something that he and Michelle want to make sure their daughters understand.
“For me, what I always try to transmit to my kids is that issues of race, discrimination, the tragic history of slavery and Jim Crow, all those things are real and you have to understand them and you have to be knowledgeable about them and recognize that they didn’t stop over night, and certainly not when I was elected…but what I want them to draw from that is a sense of justice for everybody.”
“My view is that the strength of having been a minority on the receiving end of discrimination should make you that much more attuned and empathetic towards anybody who’s vulnerable, towards anybody who’s being locked out. What I say to my kids is use this as something that provides you a particular power to be willing to fight on behalf of what is right.”
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