Michelle Obama talks about South Side Chicago ‘white flight’ at Obama Summit

Boosting the Obama Presidential Center, to be built in Jackson Park, Michelle Obama said, “Barack and I wouldn’t bring some crap up in our neighborhood.”

Former first lady Michelle Obama recalled her dawning awareness about white flight after her family moved to 74th and Euclid when she was a youth, speaking Tuesday about growing up on the South Side during an Obama Summit session with her older brother, Craig Robinson.

“We were doing everything we were supposed to do — and better,” she said as she discussed witnessing a painful chapter in Chicago’s history. “But when we moved in, white families moved out.”

She added, “I want to remind white folks that y’all were running from us. And you’re still running,” Obama said, comparing the situation to what immigrant families arrive in neighborhoods are experiencing today.

Obama and Robinson, now an executive with the New York Knicks, reunited for a session of the third annual Obama Summit where the former first lady talked up the benefits of constructing the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park.

Noting that she is “South Side” by birth and former President Barack Obama “South Side” by choice, she said, boosting the center, to be built on 19.3 acres in the historic park, “Barack and I wouldn’t bring some crap up in our neighborhood.”

Michelle Obama grew up at 7436 S. Euclid Ave. and white flight from her South Shore community was a topic she wrote about in her best selling memoir, “Becoming.”

As I wrote when her book was published, “Being a South Sider has always been a central part of Obama’s story – specifically, growing up in a close-knit family of modest means, the daughter of Fraser and Marian Robinson, whose own lives were impacted by the Great Migration and racism in the north and south.”

At the Obama Summit, taking place on the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology, Obama made clear that the white residents were not moving because of crime.

When the Robinson’s settled on Euclid, Obama had friends from all races. “There were no gang fights, there were no territorial battles. Yet one by one, they packed their bags and they ran from us. And they left communities in shambles,” with subsequent disinvestment in schools and parks.

Barack Obama will speak later Tuesday.


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