Describing her own experiences with White flight, the former First Lady explained what was wrong with America's mischaracterization of the Obama family.
At the Obama Foundation Summit that took place on Tuesday, October 29, former United States First Lady Michelle Obama schooled a bunch of people about White flight. Talking about her own experiences from when she lived in the city of Chicago, Obama highlighted the systemic racism and individual fears that exacerbated the fear of Black and migrant communities. White flight, for those unfamiliar, is a term that emerged to describe the large-scale migration of White folks from mixed-ethnicity regions in the United States to more racially homogeneous, that is, predominantly White, suburban neighborhoods. "Y’all were running from us, and you’re still running," she stated, The Washington Post reports.
Obama first discussed how husband former President Barack Obama and the rest of her family did everything they were supposed to do - sometimes better. In spite of this, they were unable to convince some voters - White folk, especially - about why they were good for the White House. She went on to describe her experiences growing up. The former First Lady spent most of her childhood in a South Side neighborhood in Chicago. She claimed she noticed White families simply packing up their bags and heading to other parts of the city or even the state of Illinois in order to stay away from Black people. This was even despite the fact that Obama's family and other Black families in the area did absolutely nothing to provoke their mass exodus. The former First Lady stated, "As we moved in, White folks moved out because they were afraid of what our families represented... There were no gang fights, there were no territorial battles. Yet one by one, they packed their bags and they ran from us. And they left communities in shambles."
She continued, "You were running from us, and you’re still running because we’re no different than the immigrant families that are moving in, the families in Pilsen, the families that are coming from other places to try to do better... Being the first black first family gave America and the world an opportunity to see the truth of who we are as black people: That we are just as and often better than the people who doubt us." Obama hit the nail on the head about how media and voters themselves mischaracterized her family. There is no doubt that the Obamas were treated very differently to the White counterparts before them, and Barack Obama differently to his orange successor. Her speech was an important reminder that a Black family in the White House does not imply the death of racism in the United States. There is still quite a long way to go if we are to claim that our great nation treats citizens of color and immigrants equally, with the same amount of dignity and respect.