Barack Obama: I've been mistaken for a valet and a waiter

President 44 claims most men of his colour and his age have been handed a pair of car keys by a stranger

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The Independent US

Barack Obama, the United States' first African-American president, has revealed that he has been mistaken for a valet because of the colour of his skin.

"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 on Wednesday.

His wife, First Lady Michelle Obama, added that her husband had also once been mistaken for a waiter at a black-tie party and asked for coffee.

Not that Michelle has not experienced the same kind of thing. She said that when she went to Target recently, as the First Lady of the country, she was asked by a fellow shopper to get something from a shelf.

"I think people forget that we've lived in the White House for six years," she said. "Before that, Barack Obama was a black man that lived on the South Side of Chicago, who had his share of troubles catching cabs."

Obama and the First Lady were speaking in the wake of rising racial tensions in the country following the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York. Both men were killed at the hands of white policemen. Both policemen did not face any punishment.

Protests and some riots have spread across the US in recent weeks.

The president said racial relations had improved, but progress was needed.

A Bloomberg Politics Poll that surveyed 1,001 US adults between December 3 and 5 found that 45 per cent of black people thought that race relations had deteriorated under the US’ first African-American. 7 per cent of the same group thought relations had improved and 36 per cent said they had strayed the same.

"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."

Additional reporting by the AP.