A recent Bloomberg poll revealed that a majority of Americans think race relations have deteriorated over the past six years under President Obama. There are many issues that have contributed to this poll result but it is becoming more and more clear that the President’s personally held views on race aren’t in line with many Americans. The President and First Lady sat down for an interview with People Magazine where they touched on a lot of different examples of how racism has directly affected them.
The most startling example came from Mrs. Obama who said the following:
“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.”
In Mrs. Obama’s eyes, a white woman asking for help should automatically be deemed as racist without any evidence of racial animosity or context. This is an interesting precedent. It implies that skin color is the primary way by which people should view each other in this country.
What’s even stranger is that the First Lady went on David Letterman two years ago and told the same story in a completely different tone. She explained that she was dressed inconspicuously with dark sunglasses on and that the woman, who was shorter than her, probably didn’t recognize her.
This version of the story makes a lot more sense. Keep in mind, a shocking amount of Americans don’t even know who Vice-President Joe Biden is, as illustrated by several late night “Man On The Street” segments. The possibility of Michelle Obama simply not being recognized seems far more likely than a blatant act of disrespect. Even if the woman did recognize the First Lady, would it be that outrageous for her to ask for help? Is Mrs. Obama above lending a hand to someone in need in a department store?
It is curious that People framed the Target incident as an example of racism when Mrs. Obama is on tape speaking about it as if it was not a big deal. Surely, the White House had final approval or at least significant input on the final draft of the story before it went to print. Mrs. Obama’s story was not taken out of context either. Her Target quote was sandwiched between a description of how difficult it was for President Obama to catch a cab before he was President and a story about how he was once asked to get coffee by someone who had mistaken him for a waiter at a black tie affair.
It appears that People deliberately misrepresented the Target incident to fit the narrative that the Obama family has been the victim of racism on many occasions. Unfortunately, this represents a journalistic trend in America of only reporting facts that fit with a previously agreed upon conclusion. The recent Rolling Stone rape story was a perfect example of that.
It is also possible that Mrs. Obama is purposely misleading the readers. Either way, false accusations of racism don’t help anyone and they do two very disruptive things. First, they belittle and overshadow legitimate examples of racism while desensitizing the public to the importance of those examples when they occur. Second, it divides Americans based on race which does nothing but further complicate the situation. Both of those actions do not help ease racial tensions in this country and People Magazine, President Obama, and the First Lady ought to know better.
– Andrew Mark Miller