President Obama, First Lady Discuss Race In America

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The first African-American couple of the United States spoke out about the racial bias that continue to play a part in America’s society in an interview with PEOPLE magazine released on Wednesday, Dec. 17.

Though they’ve lived in the White House for six years, the Obamas say their experiences with race aren’t as far in the past as one might expect.

“There’s no black male my age who’s a professional who hasn’t come out of a restaurant and is waiting for their car and somebody didn’t hand them their car keys,” President Barack Obama said.

Michelle Obama described another time her husband was mistaken for help while “wearing a tuxedo at a black-tie dinner,” where an attendee of the event asked him to fetch them a coffee.

Although things have gotten better, both Obamas agree that there is still more progress to be made for the minority communities of America.

“The small irritations or indignities that we experience are nothing compared to what a previous generation experienced,” President Obama said. “It’s one thing for me to be mistaken for a waiter at a gala. It’s another thing for my son to be mistaken for a robber and to be handcuffed, or worse, if he happens to be walking down the street and is dressed the way teenagers dress.”

He applauded the efforts of prominent African-American athletes and celebrities that have taken a stance against police brutality since the cases of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner began protests across the country.

“I think LeBron did the right thing,” Obama said of Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James, who wore a shirt with the Eric Garner-inspired slogan “I Can’t Breathe” on the court. “We forget the role that Muhammad Ali, Arthur Ashe, and Bill Russell played in raising consciousness. I’d like to see more athletes do that — not just around this issue, but around a range of issues.”

For more from the exclusive interview with the President and First Lady, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE when it hits newsstands this Friday, Dec. 19!

(Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)