Michelle Obama was joined by her brother, former basketball coach Craig Robinson and mother Marian Robinson on the season finale of her self-titled podcast as they chronicled their years growing up on the Southside of Chicago while telling of the defining moments that changed their lives. But the one memory that they will probably never forget is the day a young Craig was accused of stealing his own bike.
The former first lady and her beloved brother spoke at length about that heartbreaking moment in a clip shared exclusively with The Root. Craig was around 10 or 11 when he was stopped by the police around the South Side of Chicago while riding a new bright yellow 10-speed bike his parents had gifted to him.
He recalled that one of the officers grabbed the bike after accusing him of stealing it. Despite his pleas that the bike was his, one of the officers grabbed it and wouldn’t let it go.
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“I was always taught that the police are your friends…and they’ll believe the truth, and I was tellin’ ‘em the truth and this guy would not believe me,” Robinson recounted.
“I was like ‘Oh, you got this all wrong, this is my bike. Don’t worry, this isn’t a stolen bike,’ and [the cop] would not believe me, and I was absolutely heartbroken. And I finally said to him, ‘Listen, you can take me to my house, and I will prove to you, this is my bike.’”
With the bike in the back of the police car, the officers drove Craig to his home, where his mom, Marian, made it known to them that they had made a serious mistake.
“I could tell [the cops] were trying to ask me questions that would trip me up,” Craig recalled. “If I wasn’t so sure that that bike was mine and showed any kind of reticence, I could see them taking me off to the police station, not calling mom until after I’ve been, you know, booked or whatever they do.”
Michelle then went on to describe how Black families have had to safely navigate potential encounters with police. “Nobody thinks about, you know, the fact that we all come from good families that are trying to teach values, but when you leave the safety of your home and go out into the street, where being Black is, is a crime in and of itself, we have all had to learn how to operate outside of our homes with a level of caution, and fear, because you never know,” she said.
Interestingly, the police officers who drove Craig home that fateful day were Black but Marian believes that their “discriminatory treatment was part of a culture among police.”
“…They were acting exactly the same as any other policeman,” she said. “It’s almost like, this is what they thought they were, how they were thought they were supposed to act.”
Unfortunately, not much has changed since Craig’s racial profiling incident and this is evident in the scores of young people that were seen protesting racial injustice and police brutality on the streets lately.