Here is what Michelle Obama considers to be racist behavior – here is her description, given during the David Letterman show in 2013, of an incognito shopping trip she made to Target:
“I have to tell you something about this trip though. No one knew that was me. Because a woman actually walked up to me, right –I was in the detergent aisle– and she said, I kid you not, she said ‘Excuse me, I just have to ask you something.’ And I thought cover’s blown. She said, ‘Can you reach on that shelf and hand me the detergent?’ I kid you not. And the only thing she said–I reached up ‘cause she was short–I reached up and pulled it down. She said ‘Well, you didn’t have to make it look so easy.’ That was my interaction. I felt so good…She had no idea who I was. I thought as soon as she walked up I looked my–I was with my assistant–and I said this is it. It’s over. We’re going to have to leave; she just needed the detergent.” (Italics added)
Apparently Mrs. Obama has had at least one subsequent occasion to recount the Target episode: an intriguing, December 2014 interview by People Magazine, in which she refers to the Target encounter as evidence that, even since they have moved to the White House, she and her husband still have not been insulated from coming face-to-face with racism.
One is baffled as to how the Target episode shows racism. Indeed, in going back over the Letterman interview, one is left with a more basic question: What was it that led Mrs. Obama to regard the other woman’s behavior as being unusual, so unusual that it merited two exclamations of “I kid you not” – ? I mean, this was about a short woman asking a tall stranger to help her access an item on a high shelf in a Target store. Forget the racism issue, the issue to me was, why did Mrs. Obama think the encounter was unusual in any way – be it racism, bad manners, whatever?
And then it hit me: To the First Lady, being treated as anything but royalty is so unaccustomed, so thoroughly offensive and inappropriate, that there could be no possible explanation other than racism. She viewed the woman’s request as being beneath her dignity, beneath her station. “I kid you not” means, “Yes, this weird thing really happened!” From her perspective, anything short of pure fawning or obeisance is so odd that it can only be explained as racism.
So, who is the racist here? If her take on the Target episode does not make Mrs. Obama a racist, it certainly suggests she is out there in “let them eat cake” territory in terms of her attitude toward her – er, her husband’s – constituents.