President Barack Obama and his wife, First Lady Michelle Obama, recently told People magazine that he’s been profiled as a staffer multiple times while attending fancy events.
“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,” Obama said, “adding that, yes, it had happened to him.”
Michelle Obama further said her husband has had trouble catching cabs and has been mistaken for a waiter.
“He was wearing a tuxedo at a black-tie dinner, and somebody asked him to get coffee,” she said.
The Obamas did not specify whether these incidents continued to occur after President Obama was elected to the White House. However, the first lady also said she has been mistaken for a store employee — even after Obama won the presidency.
“I tell this story — I mean, even as the first lady — during that wonderfully 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. 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,” she said.
The comments were part of a 30-minute People interview published Wednesday morning, apparently focused on racial issues in the aftermath of nationwide protests against alleged police brutality. In late November and early December, separate grand juries in Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island, New York, set off intense demonstrations after they declined to indict white police officers involved in the deaths of black men.
The president insisted his experiences did not compare to being profiled by the police, however.
“The small irritations or indignities that we experience are nothing compared to what a previous generation experienced,” he 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.”
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