Obamas say they're still affected by everyday racism

Story highlights

  • Obamas spoke to People Magazine
  • Couple spoke about role of race in America
They're the most powerful couple in the country but President Barack Obama and the First Lady Michelle Obama say they're sometimes still treated like the help.
Speaking to People Magazine, the first lady recounts a trip to Target when a fellow customer asked for assistance with an item -- not recognizing her as the wife of the President of the United States.
"She didn't see me as the first lady, she saw me as someone who could help her," Mrs. Obama said. "Those kinds of things happen in life. So it isn't anything new."
The president said he -- like many African-American men -- had been mistaken for 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 told the magazine.
Obama said those indignities don't compare to the violent struggle for equal rights waged a generation ago. But he said it's concerning when law enforcement regards African-American men with undue suspicion.
"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," he said.
The Obamas comments come after a spate of incidents that involve police and race -- in two cases, grand juries failed to indict police officers responsible for the deaths of unarmed black men, leading to angry protests.
Some have called on Obama to take a firmer stand against aggressive police tactics. The White House announced earlier this month a review panel to look into the relationship between communities and police forces nationwide.