‘Y’all Were Running From Us’: Michelle Obama Gets Candid About How She Felt Witnessing White Flight as a Child in Chicago

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Michelle Obama opened up about her childhood at the third annual Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago, where she recalled the pain of seeing white families “running from us” after moving to the city’s South Side.

Taking the stage with older brother Craig Robinson, the former first lady talked about moving with her family as a kid to a new neighborhood with better schools. However, as more African-American families moved in, the more white families packed up and left — a phenomenon known as “white flight.”

“They were afraid of what our families represented,” said Mrs. Obama, who grew up on Chicago’s South Side in the ’70s. “I always stop there when I talk about this out in the world because I want to remind white folks that y’all were running from us. This family, with all the values you read about: you ran from us. And you’re still running.”

She added: “There were no gang fights, there were no territorial battles. And yet one by one, they packed their bags and they left us and they left communities in shambles.”

The Harvard grad said her family was no different from other minorities looking to do better for themselves.

Michelle Obama
Michelle Obama recalls seeing white families pack up and leave as more minority families moved into her South Side Chicago neighborhood in the 1970’s. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Speaking on her time in the White House, Obama said “being the first Black first family gave America and the world an opportunity to see the truth of who we are as Black people, as others — that we are just as, and oftentimes better than, many of the people who doubt us.”

Her husband, former President Barack Obama, also spoke at the weekend Summit where tackled the so-called “woke culture.”

“You should get over that quickly,” the ex-POTUS said, adding: “The world is messy. There are ambiguities. “There is this sense sometimes of the way of me making change is for me to be as judgmental about other people, and that’s enough.”