Former first lady Michelle Obama says racial inequality amid the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic has left her feeling that she has “some form of low-grade 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,” she said in the latest episode of her podcast released Wednesday.
Obama added that the mounting stories of Black people being wrongfully arrested, killed or “dehumanized” have been weighing on her. And while George Floyd’s death in police custody sparked an outpouring of outrage, the issue of racism in America long preceded the incident.
“I’d be remiss to say 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,” she said.
The high rates of Black men in prisons, economic disparity and lack of access to quality health care were among the examples Obama pointed to.
Obama also discussed the attitudes some Americans had about the country inaugurating its first Black president when her husband, Barack Obama, was elected in 2008.
“The reaction to it on all sides, the vast discomfort with the notion that a Black man could be sitting in the highest level of office, we saw that. We saw the signs, we saw the nooses, ” she said.
Both Obamas have been subject to right wing attacks and abuse online.
Reflecting on the pandemic, Obama also said she found people who refuse to wear masks “frustrating.”
“There’s almost like there’s a limit to our sacrifice and it was about a month and then we just got tired of the virus,” she said. “That’s been disheartening to see so many people who have grown tired of staying at home because the virus didn’t impact them.”
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The country needs to think more about essential workers, many of whom are financially unstable, lack health insurance and face greater risks of falling ill, she said.
In the episode, Obama speaks with Washington Post opinion columnist and friend Michele Norris about the rise in protests over racial injustice since the Floyd death.
Amid all the challenges facing the country, Obama said she’s managing the “emotional highs and lows” by trying to maintain a routine, trying to not be hard on herself, getting outdoors and spending time with her family.
Obama’s eponymous podcast launched last month with an interview with her husband.