Apparently an interview with People magazine:
The Obamas talked with People magazine about dealing with their “own racist experiences,” as the magazine described.
Michelle Obama told one story that recently took place, even as she was first lady of the United States.
“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. So it isn’t anything new,” Michelle Obama, who is 5’11”, said.
She also said that her husband, Barack Obama, was asked to get coffee when he was wearing a tux. “He was wearing a tuxedo at a black-tie dinner, and somebody asked him to get coffee,” she told People.
The president told his own experiences. “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 told the magazine.
Here is Scott Pelley on September 29, 2011 reporting on the First Lady’s Target excursion:
What is the AP photographer, Charles Dharapak doing following her around to take a photo(op) of her in Target if she didn’t want recognition?
I don’t think I would have recognized her right away in that getup.
Here was Michelle Obama on David Letterman relaying her Target story:
Not a hint of racism. How did a sweet, charming story get turned into an opportunistic story on race-relations?
I’m actually pressed for time; but just want to relay an experience I had of my own:
During my final year of college, I was an in-store detective. Sometimes, you wanted to blend in to catch people. Other times, you want to be known out in the open as “security” for the sake of deterrence and to discourage shoplifting; basically, protect the potential criminal from giving in to his own nature.
I was one of those who actually did my job and actively scrutinized every customer who would walk into the store. I profiled, and by process of elimination, I would figure out who to prioritize and keep track of, and who was “ok”. Most of how I profiled came down to behavior. And unfortunately, because blacks have been unfairly followed around in stores, some black customers would display some of the basic behavioral characteristics you looked for in shoplifters, such as shifty eyes and paying attention to you and store personnel instead of the merchandise. So then I had to determine whether the behavior was due to hypersensitivity on their part as an honest customer wondering if you were going to stereotype him and follow him around (as a stereotypical store employee), or if it was due to a desire to steal. It was a real art, figuring it out.
Unfortunately, I had a couple of incidents where customers who happened to be black, walked out in the belief that I was targeting them because of skin color, rather than behavior. One time, I was able to clear things up with one of the customers. He actually accepted my explanation, which was good. But another customer came away from the experience finding his preconceived notions of black stereotyping by the store to have validity because he happened to catch my attention within the moment he stepped into the store (where there were only about 3 other customers in the store that I had already given initial screening to). He probably went on to tell his buddies how he got followed around/watched in a store and racism is alive and well in Westwood, CA; and they’d tell their friends, and so on, and so on…..after all, why should his friends not believe him?
And so, some of those who seek out racist attitudes will find their belief system given confirmation, even if it’s a fabrication of their own imaginings.
Tom Hanks once walked into the store I was working at…and asked me if there was a waste basket and if I could throw his Starbucks coffee away for him. I did as the customer asked. And that was that.