Michelle Obama in Malaysia: U.S. ‘Still Not Where We Need to Be’ on Race

Former US first lady Michelle Obama (R) attends a side event for the Obama Foundation in Kuala Lumpur on December 12, 2019. (Photo by Mohd RASFAN / AFP) (Photo by MOHD RASFAN/AFP via Getty Images)
MOHD RASFAN/AFP via Getty Images

Former first lady Michelle Obama criticized the United States while speaking abroad on Thursday, stating the country is “still not where we need to be” on the issue of racism and scoffed at the notion that former President Barack Obama’s election meant the end of bigotry.

“We’re still not where we need to be in the United States of America when it comes to race. People thought electing Barack Obama would end racism. That’s 400 years of stuff that was going to be eliminated because of eight years of this kid from Hawaii? Are you kidding me?” Michelle Obama said at the Obama Foundation’s leadership conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia:

Joining the former first lady at the event were husband, former President Barack Obama, Hollywood actress Julia Roberts, and former Miss Malaysia Deborah Henry to focus on promoting women’s education in Southeast Asia as part of the Obama Foundation’s Girls Opportunity Alliance program. Earlier in the week, Michelle and Roberts visited a high school in Vietnam, where the pair spoke to female students.

Obama’s remarks come after she criticized the U.S. for what she described as a lack of understanding about migrants. During her remarks at the annual Obama Foundation Summit, the former first lady singled out white families for moving out of her childhood neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago while black families moved in, likening her plight to today’s immigrants.

“As families like ours, upstanding families like ours who were doing everything we were supposed to do and better. As we moved in, white folks moved out because they were afraid of what our families represented,” Obama said in late October.

“There were no gang fights, there were no territorial battles. Yet one by one, they packed their bags and they ran from us. And they left communities in shambles,” the former first lady continued.

“I want to remind white folks that y’all were running from us,” she added. This family, with all the values that you read about, you were running from us. And you’re still running because we’re no different than the immigrant families that are moving in.”

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