Obamas Discuss Encounters with Racism

The interview comes after protests in some of the nation's largest cities against police officers' treatment of African Americans.

US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wave as they arrive for the Inaugural Ball at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on January 21, 2013 in Washington, DC.

US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wave as they arrive for the Inaugural Ball at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on January 21, 2013 in Washington, DC.

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama said in an interview published Wednesday that reminders of racism are never far, even the White House.

“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,” the president told People magazine. That includes him, he said.

The interview comes after protests in some of the nation's largest cities against police officers' treatment of African Americans, spurred by grand jury decisions in the deaths of black men in New York and Missouri.

Michelle Obama recounted a “wonderfully publicized” trip she made to a Target store in 2011. A shopper approached her and asked for help removing an item from a shelf, she said.

“She didn't see me as the first lady, she saw me as someone who could help her,” she said. Another time, someone at a black-tie party mistook her husband for a waiter and asked for coffee, she said.

“The small irritations or indignities that we experience are nothing compared to what a previous generation experienced,” the president 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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