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Michelle Obama says 'White folks don't understand racism' because Black people only exist 'as a threat'

Michelle Obama went on to discuss racism with friends Danielle Pemberton-Heard, Dr. Sharon Malone and Kelly Dibble on the latest episode of her podcast
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

On the latest episode of her podcast, former first lady Michelle Obama said "White folks don't understand racism" because "Black people don't exist to them."

Discussing racism – a topic currently evoking impassionate speeches and gestures from prominent people and entities throughout the United States – with her friends Danielle Pemberton-Heard, Dr. Sharon Malone, and Kelly Dibble, the ex-FLOTUS said that that there was a primary reason why it was difficult for White people to get a grasp of the fact that racism existed in the country. "What White folks don't understand, it's like that is so telling of how White America views people who are not like them," Michelle said. "You know, we don't exist. And when we do exist, we exist as a threat. And that, that's exhausting."

To drive home her point, Michelle chose to reference the incident that took place between White woman Amy Cooper and black bird watcher Chris Cooper in Central Park back in May. "That incident in Central Park, which infuriated all of us, as we watched it, it was not unfamiliar," she said. "This is what the White community doesn't understand about being a person of color in this nation, is that there are daily slights. In our workplaces, where people talk over you, or people don't even see you."

Former first lady Michelle Obama discusses her book "Becoming" at Barclays Center on December 19, 2018, in New York City. (Getty Images)

Next, she narrated an incident when she, Pemberton-Heard, and her daughters, Sasha and Malia, went to get ice cream when former President Barack Obama was still in office. "We had just finished taking the girls to a soccer game. We were stopping to get ice cream, and I had told the Secret Service to stand back because we were trying to be normal, trying to go in," Michelle said. "There was a line, and once again, when I'm just 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, 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."

When Michelle saw the employee who was tasked with taking the orders at the dessert parlor cater to the White woman, Michelle decided to speak up. "So I stepped up, and I said, 'Excuse me?' I was like, '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," she said. 

And this wasn't the only such instance. Apparently, during her husband's eight-year tenure at the White House, Michelle said she experienced many such moments when people did not know she was the first lady because they would not meet her eyes or look at her face. "I can tell you a number of stories like that 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. They don't know it's me," she said.