Barack Obama opens up about the difficulty of ‘being a functioning Black person in America’ in surprise appearance

Barack Obama made a surprise appearance during a virtual book club for independent bookstore MahoganyBooks, stressing the importance of supporting Black-owned businesses during Black History Month.



“I wanted to come on here because I thought, well, let’s see if we can find a way to support our outstanding African American independent bookstores,” the former president said after surprising the virtual attendees. “I also just wanted to see who the brothers were who named themselves ‘The Very Smart Brothas Book Club.’”

Obama joined Ramunda and Derrick Young, the owners of the Black-owned Washington, D.C. store, as well as members of the Very Smart Brothas Book Club who were promised an appearance by a member of the Obama administration. Instead, the 44th U.S. president himself jumped onto the call to talk about his book A Promised Land and his ability to maintain hope and optimism during a difficult time for the country.

“It’s just temperament. Part of it, I guess, has to do with the fact that I tend to take the long view on things and not the short-term. And that’s something I had to kind of learn to do,” he explained. “The trick is to be able to have that kind of long-term perspective but still feel the urgency of now, as Dr. King wrote about. Still feel as if, yes we made some progress, but man, what’s going on now is crazy and we have to do something about it.”

He then spoke more specifically about current issues of racial injustice.

“What happens, you know, when you see a George Floyd or an Eric Garner. That’s terrible. That should make you angry. You can’t just kind of say, ‘Well, it’ll take time.’ You have to feel pressed now, and angry now or sad now,” Obama said. “Trying to keep those two things in mind at the same time I think is the biggest trick to not just being president but just being a functioning Black person in America.”

The former president also talked about identifying his passion and values early in life. “If you know what that is, then you’ll find a way, you’ll figure it out,” he told a young participant.

Still, some were more interested in Obama’s counterpart, former first lady Michelle Obama, than they were in him or his book.

“I don’t know what it is about y’all with Michelle and her belts,” Obama said when asked about the Becoming author’s “inauguration drip” at Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration. “I asked Michelle about it at dinner the other night. I said, ‘Listen, baby. You are gorgeous. You know, I understand completely why you are a fashion icon.’ But, I said, ‘Was your hair different? Cause it didn’t look that different.’”

Barack and Michelle Obama arrive to Joe Biden's inauguration. (Photo: Getty Images)

Barack and Michelle Obama arrive to Joe Biden’s inauguration. (Photo: Getty Images)

“She looked good and looks better than me,” he said. “I understand that.”

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