Speaking at the 14th annual convention of the National Action Network, a civil rights group founded by Al Sharpton, President Obama's Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan spoke about the president's especially qualified ability to empathize with America's poor.
“He knows what it’s like to walk the streets of some of our cities’ poorest neighborhoods because he’s lived there,” Donovan said. “What it’s like to take a subway or a bus just to find a fresh piece of fruit in a grocery store.”
Donovan also said the president had to “wonder” about whether he could “afford a college education or decent health care” or be “judged” unfairly.
“And [Obama] knows what it’s like to be judged not on your merits or your talent but because of where you come from, what your name is or even what you look like,” Donovan said.
Okay, guys -- I realize that the president largely grew up in a single-parent household, and he very likely experienced some rough times in tough neighborhoods with material hardship. I'd bet he's probably experienced some painful moments of genuine racism, too. I'm not disputing that. I could even refrain from taking the obvious affirmative-action shot at Secretary Donovan's last sentence there (really, it's just too easy), if it weren't for the fact that Team Obama is turning right back around and judging people, not on their merits or talents, but because of where they came from and what they look like. POLITICO reports:
President Barack Obama’s team is looking to hire more African-Americans, a search that has stirred a debate among black Democrats about Obama’s record on diversity and its implications for his reelection.
Stefanie Brown, director of the campaign’s African American Vote program, wrote in an “urgent” March 21 email to contacts in the black community that “The Obama for America campaign is in the process of really staffing up in states around the country, and I need your help to find qualified, African American candidates for some of these positions.” The email, a copy of which was obtained by POLITICO, notes that “this is a fast moving process and your (quick) support is greatly appreciated.”
Campaign manager Jim Messina created and runs a working group “dedicated to ensuring that we are looking at a diverse pool of applicants for jobs” — both African-Americans and members of other minority groups — a campaign official told POLITICO, and Latinos for Obama was launched on Wednesday.
It's an absolute given that nobody should be denied opportunities because of their race, ethnicity, or background. So, why should anybody be afforded special opportunities because of their race, ethnicity, background? Aren't those two equally-discriminatory sides of the same damaging coin?
I also realize that the president's campaign team is merely capitalizing on popular sentiment -- it isn't really his fault that Americans self-identify with certain groups, or that it's politically profitable to tout a diverse organization (although, his policies have done nothing to eradicate that sentiment). We as a nation need to examine ourselves and accept that racial diversity, merely for the sake of racial diversity, is not an admirable goal. It's a policy that only contributes to the divisiveness that prevents us from becoming a truly colorblind society.