Pretty much everyone is all over this story, but what the heck: why not pile on? The Obamas are trying to catch the wave of racism that supposedly is sweeping across the land. They may live in the White House, but hey–they are still subjected to racial bias. No, they don’t mean getting preferential treatment when applying to colleges and law schools, or being taken seriously as a presidential candidate after two undistinguished years in the Senate, or getting a $300,000 job with a hospital for no discernible reason. They mean the other kind:
President and Michelle Obama personally identify with everyday experiences of racial bias in America that have underpinned recent protests across the country, they told People magazine in an interview to be released Friday. …
On one occasion, [Michelle] said, her husband “was wearing a tuxedo at a black-tie dinner, and somebody asked him to get coffee.”
President Obama said he’s even been mistakenly treated as a valet.
“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,” he said, according to excerpts of the interview released today.
Actually, you don’t have to be black to experience incidents like this. I was once working out in my club’s gym and an older member, mistaking me for an employee, asked me to get him a towel. You can even be a four-star general and have some unaccomplished twit demand that you bring her another glass of wine. Is that racist, or what?
The first lady also described being mistreated at a Target store in suburban Washington, during a shopping trip she took in 2011.
“Even as the first lady,” she told the magazine, “during the 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.”
My wife was shopping at a Target store yesterday and another lady asked her to get something from a shelf that she couldn’t reach. Racist? You be the judge! The funny thing about the Target anecdote is that Michelle described it completely differently to David Letterman, as Tom Maguire recalls:
“That’s my Target run. I went to Target,” she said. “I thought I was undercover. I have to tell you something about this trip though. No one knew that was me because a woman actually walked up to me, right? I was in the detergent aisle, and she said — I kid you not — she said, ‘Excuse me, I just have to ask you something,’ and I thought, ‘Oh, cover’s blown.’ She said, ‘Can you reach on that shelf and hand me the detergent?’ I kid you not.”
As the audience laughed, she went on, “And the only thing she said — I reached up, ’cause she was short, and I reached up, pulled it down — she said, ‘Well, you didn’t have to make it look so easy.’ That was my interaction. I felt so good. … She had no idea who I was. I thought, as soon as she walked up — I was with my assistant, and I said, ‘This is it, it’s over. We’re going to have to leave.’ She just needed the detergent.”
Emphasis added. And yet, when asked to recount a racist incident that is seared into her memory, the best Michelle could come up with was a friendly encounter that “felt so good.” Because the other woman was short and Michelle is tall.
For the Democrats, it is always 1963 in Selma, Alabama. Not much has changed. But the fact that the Obamas can’t come up with more compelling (or even authentic) instances of racial slights shows how different today’s world actually is. What is significant here is not that a short woman asked Michelle Obama to reach for some detergent; what is significant is how desperately the Democrats have to try to keep alive the narrative of race discrimination.