Justice

Michelle Obama Gets Very Real About The Racism She Faced As First Lady

July 26th 2017

By:
Ngozi Ahanotu

Tuesday night, the former first lady addressed an audience of 8,500 people at the Women’s Foundation of Colorado (WFCO) Anniversary event about her experiences in the White House.

In a live conversation with Lauren Casteel, WFCO CEO and president, Michelle Obama discussed the glass ceiling, the power of a woman, and the racism she endured while her husband, former President Barack Obama was in office.

Michelle Obama speaks at Tuskegee University

She was very candid when speaking to the crowd in regards to the racist attacks she had to put up with:

“The shards that cut me the deepest were the ones that intended to cut. Knowing that after eight years of working really hard for this country, there are still people who won’t see me for what I am because of my skin color.”

Titles don't grant people of color immunity to escape racism.

Even before Michelle Obama became a first lady she tolerated many attacks simply because of her skin color. Most recently, she was called an "ape in heels" by Pamela Ramsey Taylor, the director of Clay County Development Corp. in West Virginia, after President Donald Trump was elected.

Her appearance at WFCO came on the one year anniversary of her memorable statement at the Democratic National Convention: “When they go low, we go high.”

Black women are rarely found in the corporate workplace, making up merely 16.5 percent of people who work for S&P companies. When found in these companies and other parts of the workforce, they earn 63 cents to every dollar paid to white men.

While in these workplaces and working in these roles, black women are often subject to racial and gender discrimination. Most recently, two black women filed suit against Fox News Network claiming racial discrimination, adding that "dark-skinned employees suffered years-long racial animus.” Every year the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) validates racial concern in the workplace, as they receive over 30,000 charges every year alleging race-based discrimination on the job.

The hashtag #BlackWomenatWork went viral earlier this year, and is still getting traction, when women of color opened up online to share the racism they experienced at work.

 

Obama went on to also add some words of encouragement, saying at the event women should "seize their power" despite the scars:

“Women, we endure those cuts in so many ways that we don’t even notice we’re cut. We are living with small tiny cuts, and we are bleeding every single day. And we’re still getting up.”