Former First Lady Michelle Obama says that as her oldest daughter, Malia, gets ready to graduate from college this spring, she is excited for what will come next for her — but she’s also worried about the racism she’ll face as a black woman.
The 57-year-old sat down with Gayle King for an interview on CBS This Morning today and gushed about her now grown-up girls — but noted that she wished she could be less worried and more excited for her daughters as they enter the world on their own.
Malia, 22, in particular, will graduate from Harvard University in May and branch out with first job and first apartment — and Mrs. Obama just hopes that people won’t ‘make assumptions’ about her because of her skin color.
‘I am excited for her next chapter. That’s why I want to be as excited as every parent. I don’t want to worry about her entering a world where she has to worry about how people will treat her because of the color of her skin,’ she said.
Concerned: Former First Lady Michelle Obama said in an interview today that she is worried about her how her daughters will be treated in the world because of the color of their skin
All grown up: Malia, 22, in particular, will graduate from Harvard University in May, and Obama is ‘excited for her next chapter’
Living in fear: She said she wishes she could know her daughter wasn’t ‘at risk, out there, as an adult because she’s a black woman’
She went on: ‘I am excited but I’d like to be more excited to know that as she goes out and gets her first apartment and rides the subway somewhere, that they don’t make assumptions about her based on the color of her skin. That she’s not at risk, out there, as an adult because she’s a black woman.’
While Malia is finishing up her schooling, Sasha, 19, is a sophomore at University of Michigan.
‘I almost forgot that this year, this summer, they’re going to be 23 and 20. I’m just, like, stop there! I don’t even have teenagers anymore,’ Obama said.
Though she worries about their future, Mrs. Obama made it clear that those feelings are nothing new, adding that whenever her daughters get behind the wheel of a car, she’s worried.
‘Every time they get in a car by themselves, I worry about what assumption is being made by somebody who doesn’t know everything about them,’ she said.
‘The fact that they are good students and polite girls. But maybe they’re playing their music a little loud. Maybe somebody sees the back of their head and makes an assumption.
‘I, like so many parents of black kids — the innocent act of getting a license puts fear in our hearts.’
Get vaxxed! Obama said, ‘You wanna hang out with us? Get your vaccine. Get all of it. Finish it up. And then we can talk’
‘I urge everybody out there, within the sound of our voices, please, please get the vaccine. It’s time,’ she said
WATCH: @GayleKing spoke with former first lady @MichelleObama about food insecurity and other challenges we’re facing as a country, including the work that still needs to be done to end systemic racism and how the pandemic has affected our mental health. pic.twitter.com/vW2hssl95B
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) May 10, 2021
The interview also touched on comments Obama made in her podcast last year, in which she admitted to suffering from ‘low-grade depression’ — which Gayle said a lot of people seem to have felt during the pandemic.
‘That’s why I thought it was important to say it out loud,’ Obama said. ‘Because to not feel depressed, you know, with all that was going on over the course of this year — it’s sort of, like, “So you feel okay in all of this?” You know, and sometimes we just need to speak the truth.
‘When there is such uncertainty and unrest, and lack of leadership and calm, it is upsetting. It shakes you,’ she said.
‘There are dips, ebbs, and flows to life. There are times when you feel great, and times when you feel really low. But it’s important for us to own that that happens to us.
‘I think I want young people to be comfortable with identifying those peaks and valleys, and knowing that those valleys don’t last forever. I just don’t want any young person to make a decision about anything when they’re in a valley. You know? They have to know that time will move you to a better place.’
She said that she has ‘developed my own set of tools’ for coping, which include turning off the news when it all gets to be too much.
‘Sometimes I cannot continue to take it in. When I’m on the ledge, I have to turn it off,’ she said.
Tough times: Last year, Obama had opened up on her podcast about suffering from ‘low-grade depression’
‘When there is such uncertainty and unrest, and lack of leadership and calm, it is upsetting. It shakes you,’ she said
She said: ‘I think I want young people to be comfortable with identifying those peaks and valleys, and knowing that those valleys don’t last forever’
When Gayle remarked that the pandemic has been a long, dark tunnel but we are starting to see the light, Obama replied that the light could be shining brighter if everyone did their part.
‘Well, it’d be better light if people would get vaccinated,’ she said.
‘All I can say is, I have tried to live a life where I don’t lie to people, and the science behind a vaccine is the same science that’s behind aspirin, and insulin,’ she added.
At this point, she said, to spend time with her and her family, people need to get the jab.
‘Be vaccinated. You wanna hang out with us? Get your vaccine. Get all of it. Finish it up. And then we can talk. So I urge everybody out there, within the sound of our voices, please, please get the vaccine. It’s time,’ she said.
Her husband, former President Barack Obama, has promoted the vaccine and shared video of himself getting the shot, while Michelle shared a photo of herself getting it on Instagram.
She wrote at the time: ‘When you can get the COVID-19 vaccine, I hope you do — Barack and I are certainly glad we did. It’s our best shot at beating this virus, looking out for one another, and getting back to some of the things we miss. Getting vaccinated will save lives—and that life could be yours.’
In addition to discussing her daughters and the vaccine, Obama also spoke on the topic of social unrest over policing of the black community.
When Gayle said that so many Americans refuse to acknowledge that there is a problem and that racism exists, Obama replied that she wished she ‘had an answer.’
‘For me it goes back to — we have to get to know each other,’ she said. ‘And so much of what is going on is that if you’ve been raised to assume that all black people are X, in the case of interactions with black men and police officers, sadly it can often lead to death.’
Following former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin conviction of murdering George Floyd, she and her husband had released a statement on the verdict, saying the ‘jury did the right thing’ but ‘true justice requires much more’ to be done.
But Obama said that mostly, the couple let others take the lead.
‘The goal is to let leaders lead. But in certain times, people, you know, look to us often. “Well, what do you think? How do you feel?”‘ she said.
‘We know that while we’re all breathing a sigh of relief over the verdict, there’s still work to be done. And so we, we can’t sort of say, “Great. That happened. Let’s move on.”
Using their platform: The Obamas released a rare joint statement after the Chauvin verdict, saying the ‘jury did the right thing’ but ‘true justice requires much more’ to be done
‘We know that while we’re all breathing a sigh of relief over the verdict, there’s still work to be done. And so we, we can’t sort of say, “Great. That happened. Let’s move on,”‘ she said
Call to action: ‘While today’s verdict may have been a necessary step on the road to progress, it was far from a sufficient one. We cannot rest,’ they wrote
‘I know that people in the black community don’t feel that way because many of us still live in fear as we go to the grocery store or worry about walking our dogs, or allowing our children to get a license.’
Mrs. Obama stressed that black Americans don’t want to be marching in the streets, but the need for change and open dialogue has forced them to.
‘I think we have to talk about it more. And we have to ask our fellow citizens to listen a bit more, and to believe us, and to know we don’t wanna be out there marching. I mean, all those Black Lives Matters kids, they’d rather not have to worry about this,’ she said.
‘They’re taking to the streets because they have to. They’re trying to have people understand that that we’re real folks, and the fear that many have of so many of us is irrational. And it’s based on a history that is just, it’s sad and it’s dark. And it’s time for us to move beyond that.’
On a more positive note, the former first lady also spoke about her new Netflix children’s series, Waffles + Mochi, and how she not only got involved behind the scenes but starred in the puppet shot.
‘I am not an actor, so I was like, don’t give me a bunch of lines,’ she admitted. ‘But it was fun because I could be impromptu. And working with Waffles and Mochi, I love the fact that we’re all still trying to find a purpose in it. It sends a message beyond food and fun. There’s always a theme about love and acceptance and openness.
Ad-lib: Speaking about her Netflix show, Waffles + Mochi, Obama admitted: ‘I am not an actor, so I was like, don’t give me a bunch of lines’
‘I love the fact that we’re all still trying to find a purpose in it. It sends a message beyond food and fun. There’s always a theme about love and acceptance and openness,’ she said
The show has recently teamed up with Partnership for a Healthier America to provide meal kits to families in need, delivering one million free meals inspired by the show to families in Atlanta and Cleveland.
‘Many of our urban areas have been struggling under COVID. So, we could have gone to any city but Atlanta and Cleveland were primed for this partnership,’ she explained. ‘And we want to bring attention to the fact that in 2021, that people are still hungry in one of the richest nations on earth.’
When Gayle admitted to feeding her own children Spaghetti O’s and fish sticks, Obama let her off the hook.
‘We were raising our kids in a different time. We didn’t know that all the quick, fast options were not that healthy,’ she said, stressing that that’s why education is so important.
‘We can’t beat ourselves up for things we didn’t know. And now more families understand this and they also can see that they can cook an affordable meal quickly,’ she said.
Asked why she continues to keep such a busy work schedule after the White House, Obama pointed out that she and her husband have slowed down — but they’re also still young and have plenty left to give.
Phew: Obama also expressed relief to have President Biden in the White House, saying there is now ‘a responsible, mature president in office’ (pictured in 2008)
‘I’m 57, Barack will be 60 this year. We still have a lot of life left. And so to sit by when you see all the need and all the stuff that needs to be done, we still feel like we have a responsibility to be engaged in this planet,’ she said.
‘I’m still not working at the pace I was working. I still have more freedom to do the things that I want. I’m knitting now,’ she added.
Obama said knitting is a great activity for her ‘because I like creating something out of nothing. It’s not old lady,’ but chided Gayle for dismissing it as an ‘old lady’ pastime: ‘I don’t want you to come for my knitting community.’
‘I made Barack a sweater that he loves,’ she added. ‘I made halter tops for Malia and Sasha that they love.
‘The point being is that there’s time to do it all. There’s still plenty of time to work on issues that matter without sort of being in the middle of it.
‘And let me tell you, it helps to have our president, Joe Biden, in office, because when you have a responsible, mature president in office, it makes it even easier for us to move onto the next phases of the work that we do, because we’re not sitting and worrying every day about what’s gonna happen next. But there’s still plenty of time to do some good.’