Obamas candid on racism: We've been mistaken for the help – Detroit Free Press

President Barack Obama and the first lady talked about the ‘irritations or indignities that we experience’ amid protests nationwide over the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner

WASHINGTON – He may be president now, but Barack Obama says he’s a black man who has been mistaken for the 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,” Obama told People magazine in an interview out Wednesday. That happened to him, he said.

First lady Michelle Obama said her husband also once was mistaken for a waiter at a black-tie party and asked for coffee. She said even when she went to Target as first lady — and not highly disguised, a fellow shopper asked her to get something off a shelf.

“She didn’t see me as the first lady,” Michelle Obama said. “She saw me as someone who could help her. Those kinds of things happen in life. So it isn’t anything new.”

The first couple spoke about their experiences with racism amid protests nationwide over the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in State Island, N.Y. The president said racial relations have gotten better, but more progress is needed.

“The small irritations or indignities that we experience are nothing compared to what a previous generation experienced,” Obama said. “It’s one thing for me to be mistaken for a waiter at a gala. It’s another thing for my son to be mistaken for a robber and to be handcuffed, or worse, if he happens to be walking down the street and is dressed the way teenagers dress.”

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