Michelle Obama says white Americans 'still running' from black neighbors

Victoria Bekiempis in New York

Michelle Obama has said that white Americans are “still running” from their non-white fellow citizens during a summit in which she detailed how her own experience of white flight unfolded during her upbringing on Chicago’s South Side.

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“We were doing everything we were supposed to do – and better,” the former first lady told attendees at the third annual Obama Foundation Summit, reported the Chicago Sun-Times as she talked about her childhood. “But when we moved in, white families moved out.”

“I want to remind white folks that y’all were running from us. And you’re still running,” she also said, reportedly making a comparison between white flight and what immigrant families experience when they settle in US neighborhoods.

Photograph: Scott Olson/Getty Images

At the meeting, Michelle Obama reportedly touted the benefits of building the Obama Presidential Center on 19.3 acres in historic Jackson Park on Chicago’s South Side. She said the project would feature a museum, library, gym, and forum.

“Barack and I wouldn’t bring some crap up in our neighborhood,” she reportedly said. She pointed out that she hails from the area by birth and that her husband Barack comes from South Side by choice.

During his speech at the forum, Barack Obama said: “We joke about it a little bit, like this is the mothership.”

While they hope the center could anchor a potential economic revival in the area, there have been setbacks.

Opponents of the project are pursuing a federal court appeal after losing a lawsuit. Federal authorities must also review the project, as Jackson Park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In December, this review will have already spanned two years. It remains unclear when the review will end, according to the newspaper.