Michelle Obama revealed in a speech at a black women’s event Saturday that she emotionally struggled through President Donald Trump’s inauguration in part because the crowd was too white for her.
During an interview with CBS News anchor Gayle King at the Essence Festival in New Orleans, Obama said that the January 2017 event was the culmination of eight years of her enduring racist expectations in the White House.
“And then we had to meet the Trumps,” the former first lady recounted. “That day was very emotional and then to sit at that inauguration and to look around at a crowd that was not reflective of the country, and I had to sit in that audience, one of a handful of people of color, and then listen to that speech, all that I had sort of held on to for eight years, watching my husband get raked over the coals, feeling like we had to do everything perfectly, so by the time I got on that plane, it was release of eight years of having to try to show up, as we all know we have to do, not only perfectly but a little bit better than perfect to even be considered equal.”
The Essence of Michelle Obama
According to Obama, the racism started even before her husband, Barack Obama, was elected president in 2012. She said that when she campaigned alongside him, both Democrats and Republicans tried to portray her as an “angry black woman.”
“For a minute there, I was an angry black woman who was emasculating her husband,” she said. As I got more popular, that’s when people of all sides – Democrats and Republicans – tried to take me out by the knees and the best way to do it was to focus on the one thing people were afraid of: the strength of a black woman.”
Michelle Obama also suggested that because Barack Obama is black Americans don’t appreciate that he was “one of the most productive and profound presidents of our lifetime.”
“But I fear that sometimes people might have thought that Barack made it look easy so it must be easy,” she said. “It’s kind of like, ‘I guess if the black guy can do it, anybody can do it.’ And that’s not true. It’s a hard job.”
Obama, who has previously taken a number of shots at Donald Trump, told the Essence crowd that she was less worried about preserving the work she and her husband did in the White House than about what the current occupant might do to the country.
“Our upset wasn’t over our legacy. We weren’t there to instill our legacy, but the upset it would cause the country,” she said. “What saddens me is what it’s doing to the country as a whole. What we have to be really conscientious of is what kind of country we’re leaving for our children or grandchildren.”
“When they go low, we should kick them”
At one point, King asked Obama if she stood by the slogan she famously delivered at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, “When they go low, we go high.”
Conservatives have long faulted Obama for talking about race in ways that are allegedly divisive. She and her husband are widely remembered on the right as vanguards of a brand of progressive identity politics that seems to be running amok in American culture