If you haven’t read J.E.’s chilling report on an act of microaggression (love that term!) against the First Lady, you should. It harks back to the 2011 story of how Michelle Obama, following a princess-and-the-pauper impulse, piled her still-young kids into the family SUV and drove to a Target store to pick up a few items for the
White House house.
That story was widely and breathlessly reported at the time, but a recent interview with “People Magazine” sheds light on a previously unreported offense against Mrs. O. In the interview, she allows as how another shopper, not recognizing her, had the temerity to ask for her help in getting something down off a high shelf.
“People” reporter Sandra Sobieraj Westfall prefaces her interview thus:
The protective bubble that comes with the presidency – the armored limo, the Secret Service detail, the White House – shields Barack and Michelle Obamafrom a lot of unpleasantness. But their encounters with racial prejudice aren’t as far in the past as one might expect. And they obviously still sting.
The horrifying incident in Target is then offered up by Michelle Obama as evidence:
I tell this story – I mean, even as the first lady – during that … 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. 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’s a stretch to impute racism to the gesture. For one thing, the claim that she was “not highly disguised” is debatable. As the photo in J.E.’s article reveals, she was wearing sunglasses and a cap. What’s more is that context may have been a factor in the lack of recognition among customers. Samuel L. Jackson once disclosed on a talk show that when he is in New York, he travels around the city by subway, which he said discourages fans from bothering him for his autograph.
But back to the “People” tell-all. In the interview, Mrs. Obama reveals that she isn’t the only member of the first family to be scarred by racism since ascending to the U.S. throne:
Mrs. Obama recalled another incident: “He [the president] was wearing a tuxedo at a black-tie dinner, and somebody asked him to get coffee.”
Unless President Obama was also wearing shades and a hat, I find the story doubtful. But assuming it really happened, can it be taken as confirmation of rampant racism? Or could there be a more innocent reading?
Judge for yourself after watching the video that follows. This narrative is also from 2011 and implicates a member of Obama’s inner circle, Valerie Jarrett.
It is possible that this story is also a fabrication. Then again, it’s possible that the Obamas see racism in acts that were never intended as such.
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- Everywoman Michelle Obama ‘caught’ shopping at Target
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- Samuel L. Jackson admits he voted for Obama based on skin color
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- First Lady flub: Calls herself a ‘busy single mother’ during CBS interview