April 19, 2012, 10:41 am
President Obama and Justice Sotomayor (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)
When Barack Obama first came to national attention with his keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, he sounded a post-racial theme of national unity:
There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America—there’s the United States of America.
His 2008 campaign built on this theme but in a complicated and paradoxical way. An appeal was built on the idea of transcending racial division by embracing a politician who self-consciously styled himself as “black.” The nation poised in dynamic equilibrium between the ideal that race shouldn’t matter and the reality that it mattered very much.
That equilibrium didn’t last long. Even during the campaign, Obama…