White Americans are “still running” elsewhere when minorities and immigrants move into their communities, Michelle Obama said Tuesday at Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago.
In a sit-down interview with journalist Isabel Wilkerson, Obama described when she first became aware of “white flight” in America.
“We were doing everything we were supposed to do – and better,” Obama said of her family when they moved to Chicago’s South Side in the 1970s. “But when we moved in, white families moved out.
“I want to remind white folks that y’all were running from us,” she continued, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. “And you’re still running.”
The 55-year-old explained that families were ‘disinvesting’ in their community.
“We were a part of creating… history, and a lot of people walked away from it, they disinvested. One by one, they packed their bags and they ran from us, and they left communities in shambles,” she said.
“There were no gang fights, there were no territorial battles but one by one they packed their bags and they ran from us.”
She faced further discrimination in her academic career.
“As people doubted us coming through — ‘Are you Princeton material? Can you really make the grade?’ Can you cut it?’ — What do you do in those instances?” Obama asked. “All you can do is put your head down and do the work and let the work, your truth, speak for itself.”
Obama then noted that she “can’t make people not afraid of black people,” according to The Hill.
“I don’t know what’s going on. I can’t explain what’s happening in your head,” she added.
“But maybe if I show up every day as a human, a good human, doing wonderful things, loving my family, loving our kids, taking care of things that I care about — maybe, just maybe that work will pick away at the scabs of our discrimination. Maybe that will slowly unravel it.”
When she and husband Barack Obama moved into the White House, it allowed people to look past those “artificial things,” she said, per Daily Mail.
“Being the first black First Family gave America and the world the opportunity to see the truth of who we are as black people,” she said.
Obama added that “you can’t worry about the legacy while you’re in it. Let your truth speak for itself.”