Michelle Obama was candid about race during a recent discussion at the third annual Obama Foundation Summit. Held at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019, the summit featured a panel with the former first lady and her brother, Craig Robinson, that was moderated by journalist Isabel Wilkerson, according to Chicago Sun-Times.
During the discussion, Obama shared her thoughts on White flight and how it affected certain communities in Chicago. As a youth, her family moved into a majority-White neighborhood, and Whites decided to move after her family relocated.
“As we moved in, White folks moved out because they were afraid of what our families represented,” Obama said at the summit. “Y’all were running from us. And you’re still running. … I can’t make people not afraid of Black people. I don’t know what’s going on. I can’t explain what’s happening in your head.”
Obama compared her family’s situation to that of immigrants who were looking for a better life.
“We’re no different than the immigrant families that are moving in,” she said. “The families that are coming from other places to try to do better.”
After passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, major cities in the United States experienced White flight as millions of Whites moved to the suburbs to escape Blacks.
However, American cities are now dealing with reverse White flight, as a multitude of White residents are fleeing the suburbs and gentrifying traditionally Black communities.
The Obama Foundation Summit featured speakers who included director Ava DuVernay, actor Billy Porter, actress Yara Shahidi and singer Mavis Staples.