Former first lady Michelle Obama and I have a lot in common. We were both born in 1964. We are both considered tall. We both have siblings that played college basketball. According to a recent edition of Mrs. Obama’s podcast, “The Michelle Obama Podcast,” we have also shared similar experiences in the city of Washington with little bits of everyday life that happen away from the cameras.
On a recent episode of her podcast, Mrs. Obama recounted a story of taking her two daughters out for ice cream with a friend after a soccer game. When their turn came to place their order another customer tried to jump in front of them. Mrs. Obama spoke up and the would-be line cutter shamefully and silently moved back.
I experienced a similar incident at the security line at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Some individuals can be slow in removing their shoes, pulling their laptop from their bag and adhering to the other safety protocols required by the TSA. I was fourth in line with another half-dozen backed up behind me as we all waited for the person in the front of the line to move along. One woman at the rear of the line ignored us all and walked to the front. She apparently didn’t believe the societal concept of waiting your turn applied to her. Like Mrs. Obama, I spoke up. The woman was angry, but went back to her correct location in line.
Two very similar incidents. We were both waiting in line. We both experienced a rude person trying to cut into our line. Mrs. Obama and I both spoke up and corrected the person. The only difference? Michelle is convinced the rude line-cutter, who was White, cut ahead of her and her daughters because the Obama family is Black. Further, she believes this ice cream line bandit represents, in Mrs. Obama’s words, “the white community.” She has no doubt this societal faux pas was racial in nature. Conversely the airport security line violator that I experienced was a Black woman. It never occurred to me that race had anything to do with it. I just thought she was impatient and rude. Ironically, the woman who attempted to jump the security line at DCA angrily told me to enjoy my “white privilege” because I asked her to wait in the same line as everyone else.
The bottom line is Michelle Obama saw a racist when someone tried to cut in line in front of her. The Black woman who tried to cut in line in front of me saw a racist when I asked her (like Mrs. Obama did) not to cut in front of everyone else.
Another similarity between the former first lady and me is we both like dogs. She complained on her same podcast that when she would take her dogs for a walk on the canal people would come up and pet her dogs, but not look her in the eye. This may be a shock to her but many humans are more comfortable with dogs than they are with strangers. If I stand outside my Washington, D.C., grocery store, not a single stranger speaks to me, but if I have my dog with me, half the people coming or going talk to my dog, scratch his head or both. The only race they are avoiding is the human race. Many people prefer canines.
Mrs. Obama seems to be convinced that virtually all whites are racist. In what may be her most telling comment on her podcast she said, “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.”
What Mrs. Obama doesn’t understand is those same slights happen to all of us. Whether you are a man, a woman, Black, White, Asian or any other group, you aren’t exempt from rude self-centered people. It has nothing to do with your skin color or what “community” you belong to.
Forty million American Whites voted for her husband for president of the United States in 2008. It’s amazing that Michelle Obama could be part of such a historic event and still only see people by the color of their skin. What Mrs. Obama doesn’t seem to grasp is that you cannot lump everyone of the same skin color or ethnicity into one category. There is no “White community.” The Irish, the Italians, the Polish and the Germans all chose to celebrate their own heritage and traditions while slowly becoming part of the collective we know as America. They are all different, despite a similar pigment. Do racists exist among them? Sadly, yes but certainly not all of them. Not even close. Good people and bad people exist in every race and ethnicity.
By lumping all Whites into one collective category and then further assessing that group as a whole to be racist, Mrs. Obama raises the question of her own biases. Does she see people only by the color of their skin or does she judge each individual person on the content of his character? It’s sad to have such a successful woman, one who has experienced far more than most Americans will ever have the opportunity to, lump a single race into one negative category. Michelle Obama of all people should know better.