Amid a heated national discussion on race and discrimination, the first family opened up to People Magazine about their own experiences with racism in an article published online Wednesday.
“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,” the President told the magazine, saying it once happened to him.
“He was wearing a tuxedo at a black-tie dinner, and somebody asked him to get coffee,” the first lady added.
The portion of the interview appearing online is a teaser of the 30-minute conversation the Obamas had with People, which is set to hit newsstands on Friday.
Michelle Obama also told the magazine that someone had once confused her for an employee during a highly-publicized trip to Target in 2011.
“[T]he 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,” she added. “Those kinds of things happen in life. So it isn’t anything new.”
First lady Michelle Obama, wearing a hat and sunglasses, stands in line at a Target department store in Alexandria, Va., Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011, after doing some shopping. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
The first lady said her family’s life before entering the White House was a very different picture.
“Before that, Barack Obama was a black man that lived on the South Side of Chicago, who had his share of troubles catching cabs.”
The interview comes after a slew of high-profile cases of black men killed by police officers, from Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. to Eric Garner in New York City, to 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio. The killings have inspired a wave of a protests across the country united in such slogans as “Black Lives Matter.”
The President also appeared to reference the 2012 killing of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, who was shot by neighborhood vigilante George Zimmerman in Sanford, Fl.
“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,” he told the magazine.