Michelle Obama‘s revealed on her podcast this week that her brother Craig Robinson was grabbed by police and accused of stealing his own bike when he was 10 — and they didn’t believe he wasn’t a thief until they took him home and checked with his mother.
The former First Lady invited Craig and their mother Marian Robinson onto the Michelle Obama Podcast on Spotify this week, and when the trio reached the subject of police brutality and the protests erupting across the country, they recalled one of their own unpleasant experiences with officers in Chicago.
Michelle, 56, said that while she and her brother were raised with certain values, ‘when you leave the safety of your home and go out into the street, where being black is a crime in and of itself,’ one has to operate with ‘a level of caution and fear.’
Family time: The former First Lady spoke with her brother Craig Robinson and mother Marian Robinson in the latest episode of her podcast
Accused: Michelle and Craig (pictured) recalled the time police officers accused a 10-year-old Craig of stealing his own bike
‘I was always taught that the police are your friends, and they’ll believe the truth, and I was telling them the truth and this guy would not believe me,’ he recalled
In the new episode, which was released today, Michelle broached the subject of police brutality and noted that ‘we’ve talked about these kind of issues growing up.’
She recalled the time that Craig was 10 years old and out riding the new yellow 10-speed bike that their parents had bought him from Goldblatt’s.
‘You were riding down the street and you got stopped by the police, and they accused you of stealing your own bike,’ Michelle said. ‘And they would not believe you, to the point where you were like, take me to my home.’
Craig said that it was ‘terrifying.’
‘I was always taught that the police are your friends, and they’ll believe the truth, and I was telling them the truth and this guy would not believe me,’ he recalled.
‘So this guy grabbed my bike, and he wouldn’t let it go, and I was like oh no, no, and I was so innocent. I was like, ‘Oh you got this all wrong, this is my bike. Don’t worry, this isn’t a stolen bike.”
‘And he would not believe me, and I was absolutely heartbroken, and I finally said to him, listen, you can take me to my house, and I will prove to you, this is my bike.’
They loaded Craig’s bike into the trunk of the police car and drove him home, where his mom was waiting — and she was not happy.
Podcasting! ‘The Michelle Obama Podcast’ debuted on Spotify in late July
A lesson: Marian insisted the cops admit to Craig that they made a ‘serious mistake’ because they were undoing what she had taught him
Chiming in, Marian said that while talking to the officers, she learned that they were friends with the person who accused Craig of stealing the bike, and she was soon lecturing them for treating her innocent son like a thief.
‘I said, what you did was cancel out a whole lotta things that we had been teaching them,’ she said. ‘And I think you need to come back here, and talk to [him]. And at least admit you made a serious mistake, so that you won’t cancel out everything we’ve been trying to teach our children.’
What’s more, one of the officers admitted that he had soon realized Craig was telling the truth, but still didn’t drop it.
‘He said you know, I knew that was his bike the minute he said take me to my house. And then I said, well why did you let it go that far? You are actually messing with a 10 year old’s mind as far as the police are concerned,’ Marian remembered.
‘That’s the perfect example of what all of these young black people are dealing with now, because this was almost fifty years ago,’ Craig said.
Marian also noted that the two officers were black — and racism is so ingrained in the ‘culture’ that ‘they were acting exactly the same as any other policeman.’
‘You are actually messing with a 10 year old’s mind as far as the police are concerned,’ Marian remembered
Michelle said black people are targeted regardless if they are from ‘good families that are trying to teach values’
‘It’s it’s almost like, this is what they thought they were, how they were thought they were supposed to act,’ she said.
Michelle also pointed to the larger problem of how racism affects black people at every stage.
‘What a lot of folks who are not in our position don’t understand is that this is such a way of life, when it comes to interacting with the rest of the world,’ she said. It doesn’t matter who you are and what kind of values you have.
‘You know, nobody thinks about the fact that we all come from good families that are trying to teach values. But when you leave the safety of your home and go out into the street, where being black is a crime in and of itself, we have all had to learn how to operate outside of our homes with a level of caution and fear, because you never know.
‘And we grow up having to have conversations with our children, because almost everybody I know has had some kind of incident where they were doing, just minding their own business, but living black, and go accused of something.’
‘It just made me acutely aware at a young age [of] what mom and dad had always talked about,’ Craig added. ‘You have to be very careful when you’re out here, not just dealing with the bad element that you have to deal with when you’re living in a black neighborhood of, you know, crime, gangs, that kind of thing, but you have to worry about the police too. So you have to walk this line, where you can’t make a mistake on either side, or you could get sucked up.
Flashback: She added that ‘almost everybody I know’ who is black has been accused of something while ‘just minding their own business’
‘You’re taught, you know, people are gonna assume the worst of you,’ Marian said (pictured: Michelle and Craig with their father)
Marian added: ‘You’re taught, you know, people are gonna assume the worst of you. So you’ve got to be better than, you’ve got to be 10 times better than.
‘We have to be better to just be equal, so the fact that there’re people out there that treat us less than, when we’re working so hard to be better than, that’s where the pain comes from.
‘That’s what these young people are so angry about. Because they’re doing everything right, everything they are told, and it’s doesn’t matter. A police officer will still stop them, and accuse them of stealing a bike that their parents worked hard to get. That hurts.’
Michelle has spoken about racism quite a bit on her podcast, including in a previous episode in which she chatted with her friends Kelly Dibble, Denielle Pemberton-Heard, and Dr. Sharon Malone.
‘What the white community doesn’t understand about being a person of color in this nation is that there are daily slights, in our workplaces where people talk over you, or people don’t even see you,’ she said.
She recalled how several years ago, she, her daughters Sasha and Malia, and her podcast guest Pemberton-Heard went out for ice cream together once after a soccer game while Obama was still President — and a white woman cut right in front of them in line.
Remember: Previously, Michelle recalled a time she went out for ice cream with her daughters and was dressed incognito — and a woman cut them at an ice cream shop and didn’t apologize
‘We were stopping to get ice cream, and I had told the Secret Service to stand back because we were trying to be normal, trying to go in. It was Häagen-Dazs, wasn’t it?’
‘There was a line, and… when I’m just a black woman, I notice that white people don’t even see me. They’re not even looking at me.
‘So I’m standing there with two little black girls, another black female adult, they’re in soccer uniforms. And a white woman cuts right in front of us to order. Like, she didn’t even see us.
‘And the girl behind the counter almost took her order. And I had to stand up, because I know [Pemberton-Heard] was like, “Well, I’m not gonna cause a scene with Michelle Obama.”
‘So I stepped up and I said, “Excuse me?” I was like, “You don’t see us four people standing right here, you just jumped in line?”
The woman who cut didn’t even apologized, and ‘never looked me in my eye.’
‘She didn’t know it was me. All she saw was a black person, or a group of black people, or maybe she didn’t even see that, because we were that invisible,’ she said.
‘I can tell you a number of stories like that, when I’ve been completely incognito, during the eight years in the White House, walking the dogs on the canal, people will come up and pet my dogs, but will not look me in the eye. They don’t know it’s me,’ she said.
Blending in: Obama (pictured at Soul Cycle in 2017) said that several times as First Lady, she’d take the dog for a walk and people would stop to pet the dog — but wouldn’t acknowledge her
Familiar: She and her friends also discussed the Central Park birdwatching incident, with Obama saying it ‘infuriated all of us when we watched it’ but ‘was not unfamiliar’
What white folks don’t understand is, like, that is so telling of how white America views people who are not like them. You know, we don’t exist. And when we do exist, we exist as a threat. And that — that’s exhausting.
The women also discussed ‘the murder of a black man in public’ — George Floyd — and their feelings about racism.
‘We talk about racism all the time. There’s a level of pain, frustration, just fatigue with being black in America,’ Obama said.
When one of her friends says that she finds that ‘people don’t believe’ black people when they talk about the threats they face — and accuse them of ‘being overly sensitive’ — Obama chimed in: ‘You mean white people. Our white friends, our white colleagues. People who don’t experience this in their lives.’
The conversation also turned to the Central Park birdwatching incident on May 25, in which a white woman named Amy Cooper called the police and claimed that a black man — Christian Cooper — was ‘threatening her life’ even as he stood several feet away filming and asked her to leash her dog in accordance with park rules.
A chat with hubby: Her first guest on July 29 was her husband, former President Barack Obama
‘That incident in Central Park, which infuriated all of us when we watched it, it was not unfamiliar,’ Obama said.
And while discussing her mental state in a conversation with NPR’s Michele Norris, Michelle spoke spoke candidly about how how ‘exhausting’ and ‘dispiriting’ it is to watch how the President responds — or doesn’t respond at all — to ‘yet another story’ of a black man or person being hurt or killed.
She said she is battling some form of depression ‘not just because of the quarantine, but because of the racial strife, and just seeing this administration, watching the hypocrisy of it, day in and day out, is dispiriting.
‘I don’t think I’m unusual, in that,’ she added. ‘But I’d be remiss to say that part of this depression is also a result of what we’re seeing in terms of the protests, the continued racial unrest, that has plagued this country since its birth.
‘I have to say that waking up to the news, waking up to how this administration has or has not responded, waking up to yet another story of a black man or a black person somehow being dehumanized, or hurt or killed, or falsely accused of something, it is exhausting.
‘And it has led to a weight that I haven’t felt in my life, in a while.’