Obama, who was joined by longtime friends Kelly Dibble, Denielle Pemberton-Heard and Sharon Malone, revealed that the episode was recorded following the death of George Floyd in May. Airing now, in the midst of another police shooting, of Jacob Blake, the conversation was just as timely.
The former First Lady says that she and her friends have always been able to have discussions around race, and the group decided to share their own experiences with racism, particularly when it comes to feeling like they are invisible to white people.
Even while Barack Obama was in office, Michelle said her position as First Lady did not shield her from racism. She went on to describe going out to get ice cream for her and her daughters, Sasha and Malia, after a soccer game one time.
“When I'm just a Black woman, I notice that white people don't even see me. They're not even looking at me," she said. “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. The girl behind the counter almost took her order. And I had to stand up 'cause I know Denielle was like 'Well, I'm not gonna cause a scene with Michelle Obama.' So I stepped up and I said, 'Excuse me? You don't see us four people standing right here? You just jumped in line?' She never apologized, she never looked me in my eye. She didn’t know it was me. All she saw was a Black person."
Michelle went on to say that she could tell several other similar stories from her time at the White House, including times when white people would pet her dog but still not look her in the eye.
“What white folks don’t understand is like, that is so telling of how white Americans view people who are not like them, like we don't exist. And when we do exist, we exist as a threat. And that's exhausting," she added.
The women also commented on the fact that they all have white friends, but observed that their white friends only had a few Black friends. Michelle also explained the importance of having other Black women around her.
"My girlfriend group, while it is diverse, it has been so important for me to have Black women in my crew," she said. "There's just a certain relief that comes when you don't have to walk into your friend group and explain yourself. My group of female friends aren’t calling me to ask ‘what can I do?’ You guys are calling me to say ‘how you doin’, girl?...let’s talk.’"
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