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Michelle Obama: I had sleepless nights due to racial bias


FIRST LADY Michelle Obama says she feared her husband’s 2008 presidential campaign would be derailed by racial stereotypes about her, including being described as a “baby mama”.

Addressing a room of predominantly black graduates at Tuskegee University in Alabama on Friday (May 9), said she experienced many sleepless nights also worrying what her two daughters would experience.

“Back in those days, I had a lot of sleepless nights worrying about what people thought of me, wondering if I might be hurting my husband’s chances of winning his election, fearing how my girls would feel if they found out what some people were saying about their mum,” she recalled.

“As potentially the first African-American first lady, I was also the focus of another set of questions and speculations, conversations sometimes rooted in the fears and misperceptions of others.

“Was I too loud or too angry or too emasculating? Or was I too soft, too much of a mum, not enough of a career woman?” she asked at the historically black university.

The mother-of-two was parodied as a radical and a terrorist on the cover The New Yorker - one of the first magazines covers to feature the couple in 2008.

“It was a cartoon drawing of me with a huge afro and a machine gun,” she recalled. “Now, yeah, it was satire, but if I’m really being honest, it knocked me back a bit. It made me wonder just how are people seeing me.”

She also recalled other instances including when Fox News described her as “Obama’s baby mama,” and when the media misconstrued a celebratory fist bump with her husband as a “terrorist fist-jab”.

Given the height of racial tensions in the US, the First Lady, who rarely speaks about race, appeared to be giving the audience an insight of race relations in America when she said, “the road ahead is not going to be easy”.

Without painting too bleak a picture she said she fought back against the misconceptions by being “true” to herself an urged the audience to do the same despite the battle against structural inequality.

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