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Michelle Obama Opens Up About the Pain of Witnessing ‘White Flight’ as a Child in Chicago

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Michelle Obama spoke candidly about her childhood at the 3rd annual Obama Foundation Summit Tuesday, saying that white families “were running from us” while she grew up on Chicago’s South Side.

With brother Craig Robinson by her side, the former first lady told the audience that when her family moved to a new neighborhood so she and her brother could go to better schools, she witnessed “white flight” — a phenomenon in which white people leave areas that are becoming more diverse.

“As we moved in, white folks moved out because they were afraid of what our families represented,” Obama said at the summit. “Y’all were running from us. And you’re still running.”

She also compared her family’s struggle to that of other minority groups who are seeking a better life.

“We’re no different than the immigrant families that are moving in,” she said. “The families that are coming from other places to try to do better.”

Former president Barack Obama, also shared some candid thoughts at the summit when he spoke about “woke culture,” saying “you should get over that quickly.”

“The world is messy. There are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws,” he said. “There is this sense sometimes of the way of me making change is for me to be as judgmental about other people, and that’s enough.”

But he pointed out that tweeting isn’t enough, and that being “woke” is not real activism and doesn’t amount to real change.

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Write to Josiah Bates at josiah.bates@time.com