Michelle Obama Thinks It’s ‘Ridiculous’ That Skin Color and Gender Are Considered ‘Defining Traits’

Michelle Obama. Photo: Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Further cementing her place as a world-class orator, Michelle Obama spoke about gender and racial discrimination to a group of female students attending a White House screening of the upcoming film Hidden Figures on Thursday. The First Lady told the students that, while there will never be a time without adversity, it’s imperative to have the self-confidence and work ethic to move forward, USA Today reports.

Hidden Figures, which stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe, tells the true story of three black women whose brilliant work as NASA mathematicians went largely unrecognized. Addressing students attending the event honoring STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education, Obama spoke of the adversity she faced while on the campaign trail. “We were supposed to be hidden. People didn’t even want to believe we were real. But here we are,” she said.

“Skin color, gender, is the most ridiculous defining trait that we cling to. It doesn’t matter. What matters is you believe in your own potential. Because people will try to tear you down, I guarantee you that. There will never be a point when people will 100 percent be cheering you on.”

Obama also spoke of the advice she’s been giving her own staff as they start to pursue new jobs in the coming year, and the importance of diversity.

“I say this to my staff, as we move forward in life, and get access to these seats of power, I want you to look around and make sure there’s diversity at the table. If everyone looks the same and thinks the same and has the same experience, you never come up with the right answers,” she noted.

Michelle Obama on Overcoming Gender and Racial Adversity