First lady Michelle Obama said a woman asked her for help getting something off a shelf at Target, describing racial experiences she’s had.
“I think people forget that we’ve lived in the White House for six years,” Michelle Obama told People magazine. “Before that, Barack Obama was a black man that lived on the South Side of Chicago, who had his share of troubles catching cabs.”
She said, “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.”
The Obamas spoke to the magazine amid stirred racial tensions following the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
The president told People: “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.”
MO is really reaching with this. I am a white male and have been asked by many to help get something off a high shelf. Racism has never entered my mind. Helping another person entered my mind. I will be glad when MO and BHO are gone.
The point that both were making with their anecdotes is that racism is isn’t at all times blatant or vicious. It also manifests subtly, as a set of unconscious assumptions that are totally invisible and seemingly trivial—unless you happen to be the person the assumptions are being made about. If you happen to be that person, it’s likely something that continues throughout your entire life, regardless of your level of accomplishment. Given the wrong circumstances, in a setting involving confrontations and split second decisions, such unconscious assumptions can even become dangerous.
I think the Blaze article title itself is an effort to exploit such unconscious assumptions. It subtly trivializes the entirely real and entirely serious observation that the Obamas’ comments are intended to convey by implying that they’re only the result of imagined slights and excessive sensitivity. The between-the-lines message is that the uppity royalty occupying the White House are vexed at not receiving the deferential treatment they imagine they’re due. If this were pointed out to the author, I imagine she would feign complete surprise and total innocence and demand proof that this was her intention.
Like you, I’ve helped people who were struggling to get something off a high shelf. I’m not the tallest person and part Japanese, but people didn’t think of me in a racial manner, whatever that is. They asked if I could help them get something off a high shelf.
Off topic, but having to do with unintentionally giving offense…
I’m also an old white guy. I have recently been made aware of the fact that I can inadvertently offend early-middle-age women I don’t know by politely addressing them as Ma’am. Sometimes men react in a similar fashion to Sir. It took me a while to catch on to why I was getting the glares and looks of annoyance. It’s a problem for me, as I do it unconsciously. I’ve addressed strangers as Sir, Ma’am, or Miss since my youth. Since that is now considered either insulting or sarcastic, I’m not sure of the acceptable replacements.
Those ”unconscious assumptions,” had NOTHING to do with RACE.
Whenever we went formal at the Los Angeles Music Center people seeing my husband waiting for me in the lobby would mistake him for an usher.
It must have happened at least 6 times.
Who knew it was ”racism?”
And when I would shop solo (at a whopping 5’1″) I would often ask a taller shopper for help in getting products off top shelves.
What was I supposed to do? Climb up the lower shelves? Wait until help ambled by? Go to the check stand and tell them to go get this and that and the other while the line behind me grows?
I must add, race never came into it.
Michelle is 5’11” and I bet race hadn’t been a factor then either.
In fact, when it happened she bragged about it quite pleased that she’d been treated like a normal (but tall) person instead of as a celebrity.
These two are playing out a ”narrative,” that is utterly false so as to try to make themselves ”victims.”
All they’ve been ”victims” of is unconscious assumptions.
As to whether blacks in general have been modern-day ”victims” of racism or simply of unconscious assumptions depends on the mind of the person involved.
Did officer Wilson really wake up that day and decide he was going to murder some black, thus he shot Michael Brown while he was surrendered with his hands up and asking, ”don’t shoot?”
OR were the forensics correct, thus the Grand Jury correct, and many eyewitnesses correct that MB was charging the policeman?
I have had the same things happen. I have just written it off, assumed that they have no idea what good manners are and let it go.
The ones that get me, are when you hold the door open for a lady and they not only blow by you with out thanks, but look at you like you are hoping for a tip.
Manners are not in vogue.
You, and Greggie, obviously don’t live in the South.
But Michelle and Barack have faced discrimination.
She and he both got into great universities while their grades did not support their entry.
Later she was given a $300,000/year ”job” turning poor people away from a hospital.
He was given the presidency although his resume was thinner than a sheet of paper.
So, michelle doesn’t want to be seen as someone who can help the common person, but as the first lady. I wonder how many times she has been in a store like Target without cameras following her.
I don’t wait for people to ask. If I can help in ALMOST any way, as long as I get a, “Than you” out of it, I consider myself well paid.
retire05 #7. I have lived all of my years in the south Thank You.
The trivial part is how these two see racism everywhere. Talk about nit picking these two take the cake. I guess you couldn’t ask either one of them to pass the salt at the dinner table without fear of being a racist, because salt is white and you should have asked for the pepper instead.
Dang!! I have been asked on several occations while in Walmart, Lowe’s and Home Depot where products can be found; I assemed it was because of the way I was dressed, but I never realized I was the victime of RACISM!!! I blew it off at the time (offered help, if I could), but now, BOY!!! I am PISSED!!!!!
One thing, though, I bet Obama is never mistaken for a leader or President.
I’m 6’2″. I’ve lost count of how many times people have been racists towards me by asking me to reach something they couldn’t. I just didn’t know, I feel so cheap now. I just thought they were asking because I was tall enough to reach it and they weren’t.