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Michelle Obama Says It’s Not Her Responsibility to Make People Unafraid of Black Folks: ‘You Can’t Fix That’

Former first Lady Michelle Obama insists she “can’t make people not afraid of Black people” but hopes to continue picking away at what she called the “scabs of discrimination” via her life’s work.

Obama addressed the crowd Tuesday at the 3rd annual Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago, where she was joined by her husband, former President Barack Obama, and older brother, Craig Robinson.

The two day event, held at the Illinois Institute of Technology on the city’s South Side, hosted a plethora of civil rights activists and celebrities, such as Hollywood director Ava Duvernay and Chicago visual artist Theaster Gates, ABC 7 reported.

During a discussion with author Isabel Wilkerson and Robinson, Mrs. Obama talked about her childhood and some of the obstacles she’s faced as an African-American woman.

“As people doubted us coming through — ‘Are you Princeton material?” she recalled. “Can you really make the grade?’ Can you cut it?’ — what do you do in those instances? All you can do is put your head down and do the work and let the work, your truth, speak for itself.”

Obama added: “I can’t make people not afraid of black people. I don’t know what’s going on. I can’t explain what’s happening in your head.”

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The Harvard alum suggested that showing up every day as the best version of herself and focusing on “loving my family, loving our kids, taking care of things that I care about” may help begin to change the biased attitudes and prejudices against her family. But it’s not a fix-all solution.

Michelle Obama
Former first lady Michelle Obama discussed her childhood as part of a wide-ranging discussion at the Obama Foundation Summit. (Photo: The Obama Foundation / video screenshot)

“That’s all we have,” Obama said, drawing audience applause. “Because we can’t do it for them, because they are broken. Their brokenness in how they see us is a reflection of this brokenness. And you can’t fix that. All you can do is the work.”

At the summit, officials also showcased a 3-D rendering of the forthcoming Obama Presidential Center. Updated plans for the center also offered a peek at the proposed landscape of Jackson Park’s historic Women’s Garden.

“Imagine Chicago as the hub, the global hub, where there is a network of people who want to make their communities better,” David Simas, CEO of the Obama Foundation, said, according to ABC 7.

Construction of the presidential center is still awaiting federal approval.

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