Michelle Obama reveals why she didn't think Barack could become president: 'He was a black man in America'

'I think I did what a lot of black folks were doing—we were afraid to hope'

Sarah Harvard
New York
Monday 12 November 2018 21:40
Comments
Michelle Obama opens up about miscarriage

Former First Lady Michelle Obama has revealed she did not initially believe that her husband, Barack Obama, could have won the presidency in 2008.

Although she already gave him his blessing, Ms Obama writes in her new memoir Becoming she was also “harbouring a painful thought: Barack was a black man in America, after all. I didn’t really think he could win.”

Her fears were not alleviated when she saw Time magazine feature her husband on the cover of their October 2006 issue with the “Why Barack Obama could be the next president” — she looked away. The former first lady could not stomach the idea of Mr Obama becoming the nation’s elected leader.

Ms Obama said doubts about her husband’s electability were rooted in the country’s very real and dark history of racial segregation and slavery. It made her nervous to dream about the small possibility that a black man could one day lead the US.

“I think I did what a lot of black folks were doing,” Ms Obama said in an interview with Good Morning America, when pressed about her scepticism of her husband’s electability. “We were afraid to hope, because it’s hard to think that the country oppressed you could one day be led by you.”

Ms Obama, who is a descendent of a slave, said her disbelief is a reflection of the apprehension a lot of black Americans in older generations felt.

“My grandparents lived through segregation,” Ms Obama added. “My grandfather, his grandfather was a slave. These memories were real. They didn’t think the country was ready. My attitude was a reflection of that scepticism.”

Throughout his campaigns and presidential terms, the Obamas were often faced with racist messages and threats. The most notable example of the xenophobic narrative is the birther conspiracy around Mr Obama, something that President Donald Trump has been credited with amplifying.

The conspiracy theory alleged that former Mr Obama was born outside the US and therefore ineligible to serve as president, first surfaced in 2008. In 2011, Mr Trump started pushing the theory in television interviews as he floated the possibility of a presidential run.

The former first lady said she could “never forgive” Mr Trump for pushing the debunked theory further and endangering her family’s safety.

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

Furthermore, Ms Obama mentioned the anti-black rhetoric, as well as, the scepticism around her patriotism were incredibly hurtful to her.

“I write about those nasty times where people called me Barack’s “baby mama,” Ms Obama added. “[They] accused me of not loving my country [...]Told me I was angry. And, I was, like, ‘This isn’t me. Wait, wait, people. This isn’t who I am.’”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in