The Myth of an Affirmative Action President

In his blog at the Atlantic, Ta-Nahesi Coates ponders why people question how Barack Obama got where he is, while no one asks the same about Mitt Romney.

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Obama for America

In his blog at the Atlantic, Ta-Nahesi Coates ponders why people question how Barack Obama got where he is, while no one asks the same about Mitt Romney.

It's a familiar echo which goes all the way back to calls for Obama's college transcripts. What Republicans have yet to come to terms with is that Obama -- race aside -- is a formidable politician. You hear echoes of the early days of the integration of black athletes into the sports world, when white racists would contort themselves trying to understand how, exactly, someone like Jack Johnson had prevailed. It's very hard for Rove and his allies to get their heads around the fact that they got thumped in 2008 by an Ivy League black dude from Hawaii. Some scheme must be afoot.

But there's also something else -- the frame of skepticism is, as always, framed around Obama, not around Romney. No one wonders what advantages accrued to Mitt Romney, a man who spent his early life ensconced in the preserve of malignant and absolutist affirmative action that was metropolitan Detroit. Romney's Detroit (like most of the country) prohibited black people from the best jobs, the best schools, the best neighborhoods, and the best of everything else. The exclusive Detroit Golf Club, a short walk from one of Romney's childhood homes, didn't integrate until 1986. No one is skeptical of Mitt Romney because of the broader systemic advantages he enjoyed, advantages erected largely to ensure that this country would ever be run by men who looked like him.

Read Ta-Nahesi Coates' entire piece at the Atlantic.

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Sept. 19 2014 8:34 AM