The author of that classic in civil rights literature was Texas journalist John Howard Griffin, a white man who darkened his skin to pass as a black in the segregated South. By pretending to be something he was not, Griffin awakened the world to the plight of American blacks living under the racist policies of the Jim Crow South.
Sadly, President Obama’s racial fixation has become disturbing in recent months. By pandering to racial pride and grievance he is betraying the liberal tradition that enabled him to become president – a tradition represented by Frederick Douglass, Branch Rickey, Zora Neale Hurston, Stanley Crouch and others who spoke out against racial injustice and defining individuals by their color.
By obsessing with racial issues, Obama makes a mockery of a tradition that sought to “get beyond” race.
The cornerstone of that tradition was the notion of a colorblind society. Indeed, as recently as 1967, the NAACP – which stirs the racial flames today – agitated for no racial identification whatsoever on any form, such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, or job or loan applications.
Zora Neale Hurston, one of the 20th century’s preeminent black writers, spoke for the colorblind ethic when she said, “Why should I be proud to be black? Why should anyone be proud of their skin color? Races have never done anything. All that is good and excellent is the work of individuals.” And she meant it.
By way of contrast, President Obama in April pandered to black voters by making a public display of his “black-only” Census identification. The president who once said he “could not disown his white mother and grandmother” did just that.