The picture of President Obama bowing to Jacob Philadelphia so that the 5-year-old Oval Office visitor could touch his hair has touched countless people. When I wrote about that the photo speaks volumes about Obama and race, the response was immediate. There was even more when a version of it appeared in the dead-tree edition of The Post on Saturday. But an e-mail from Katharine Cooper-Arnold added even more to the conversation about the heart-tugging picture.
Thank you for posting the photo of President Obama and Jacob. It elucidates very well your closing editorial comment: the President does not need to constantly speak about race. His actions and the actions of many of his detractors (who contrary to their denial seem like racists to me) keep the conversation alive in our country. Actually just seeing a photo of the president every day reminds me of race. As a white woman who was fortunate to be surrounded by strong black women when I was growing up, I have always felt that the assertion when President Obama was elected that race no longer mattered to be wishful thinking. Race is part of our collective conscious and unconscious in this country for better or worse. The first African-American president makes it better; birthers make it worse. But race matters. Just ask Jacob Philadelphia.
My eyes roll at every mention of post-racial this or race-doesn’t-matter that. Post-racial America is where unicorns live. By asking the question of Obama, even Jacob understood that race matters. But what he learned in that now-iconic moment is that race isn’t the impediment to success that it once was.