Michelle Obama is looking back on 2020.
From the ongoing coronavirus pandemic to heightened awareness over the Black Lives Matter movement following the tragic death of George Floyd, the former first lady is opening up about what this unprecedented year has taught us.
“Black Lives Matter. For me, the holidays have always been a chance to slow down and reflect,” Obama wrote on Instagram on Tuesday, accompanying her post with a video from CNN Heroes. “We’ve endured so much this past year, from the devastation of the pandemic to the ups and downs of a hard-won election. But what has perhaps stayed with me most is the passionate message of justice and empathy that has defined the Black Lives Matter protests around the world.”
“Take the example of Patrick Hutchinson, whose humanity is on full display in this clip, as he carries another man — a stranger — to safety. I want to highlight this story because it’s hard to see so many people distort the unity and righteousness of these protests,” she added. “They’ve been sowing seeds of division, misrepresenting those crying out for justice as troublemakers or criminals. The truth is the millions around the world who showed up with their homemade signs were marching with the same kind of compassion that Mr. Hutchinson shows here. They’re folks who face discrimination on a daily basis because of the color of their skin. And they’re just asking to be shown the same level of humanity that our consciences demand we show anyone else in need.”
Obama continued on, telling fans that she hopes more people can “find it in their hearts” to meet these cries with love and a willingness to listen.
“As the COVID-19 crisis has made clear, our fates are inextricably bound. If the least of us struggles, we all in some way feel that pain,” she exclaimed. “And, unless we keep speaking out and marching for equality, none of us will ever truly be free. We can’t watch a man choked to death in the light of day and assume that all our children can be safe. We can’t tell people they can use their voices, but then say, ‘Yes, but not right now,’ or ‘That’s not the right way.'”
“I pray that in 2021, more of us will reach out to understand the experiences of those who don’t look, or vote, or think like we do. I pray that we learn to pause when we’re tempted to react in anger or suspicion,” she concluded her post. “And I pray that we choose generosity and kindness over our worst impulses. That isn’t always easy. But it’s a place to start. And we have so many terrific examples in all of the folks who marched for what’s right this year. Thanks to you all. I’m so proud of you.”
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Back in August, Obama also opened up about the racism she faced when her husband, former President Barack Obama, was in the White House and she was serving as first lady.
“What the white community doesn’t understand about being a person of color in this nation is that there are daily slights,” she said on an episode of The Michelle Obama Podcast. “In our workplaces, where people talk over you, or people don’t even see you.”
Obama then went on to describe one such slight that occurred while she was first lady. She said the incident happened when she was with her close pal, Denielle Pemberton-Heard.
“We had just finished taking the girls to a soccer game. We were stopping to get ice cream and I had told the Secret Service to stand back, because we were trying to be normal, trying to go in,” she recalled. “There was a line, and… when I’m just a Black woman, I notice that white people don’t even see me. They’re not even looking at me.”
“So I’m standing there with two little Black girls, another Black female adult, they’re in soccer uniforms, and a white woman cuts right in front of us to order. Like, she didn’t even see us,” she continued. “The girl behind the counter almost took her order. And I had to stand up ’cause I know Denielle was like, ‘Well, I’m not gonna cause a scene with Michelle Obama.’ So I stepped up and I said, ‘Excuse me? You don’t see us four people standing right here? You just jumped in line?'”
According to Obama, the woman in question “didn’t apologize” and “never looked me in my eye.”
“She didn’t know it was me,” she said. “All she saw was a Black person, or a group of Black people, or maybe she didn’t even see that. Because we were that invisible.”
Hear more in the video below.
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