The Obamas opened up about political division at the annual summit for the Obama Foundation, their nonprofit organization. While former President Obama called out the call-out culture, former first lady Michelle Obama took white conservatives to task.
Mr. Obama said he’s concerned about how people approach differences in opinion, especially on social media.
Young people in particular, he said, seem to think “‘if I tweet or hashtag about how you didn’t do something right, or used the wrong word or verb, then I can sit back and feel pretty good about myself, because man you see how woke I was. I called you out.’ That’s not activism. That’s not bringing about change,” he said at the summit, which took place in Chicago on Tuesday.
Mr. Obama — who did not support same-sex marriage when he ran for president in 2008 but did in his reelection campaign— criticized the idea that people are “always politically woke,” saying they “should get over that quickly.”
He urged people to be more compromising and accepting because “the world is messy, there are ambiguities, and people who do really good stuff have flaws.”
Michelle Obama also weighed in on political division. She compared racism to xenophobia while recalling how white families left the South Side of Chicago, where she grew up, as black families moved in.
“I want to remind white folks that y’all were running from us, and you’re still running, because we’re no different than the immigrant families that are moving in … to try to do better,” she said.
The white flight she alluded to hampers the ability of local government to fund services and infrastructure for its citizens because when people leave cities, the tax base shrinks. Earlier this year, the Chicago Sun Times reported that African-American and white population was falling in Cook County, while the Asian and Hispanic population was growing.
President Trump succeeded Mr. Obama in 2016 after pledging to build a border wall to keep people from other countries from coming into this country. Since entering the White House, his administration has taken numerous actions to limit illegal and even legal immigration.
The former first lady said “artificial things” like the color of someone’s skin are dividing people, but she said being the first black family elected to the White House “gave America and the world opportunity to see the truth of who we are as black people … that we are just as, and often times better than, many of the people who doubt us.”
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