I read  Ethnic Distinctions, No Longer So Distinctive in the Times when it was first published a couple months ago.  I’ve returned to the article several times trying to find the catch.  The article opens:

If anyone still doubted, after President Obama’s election, that candidates are no longer prisoners of their race or ethnicity, then South Carolina’s Nikki Haley offers further proof. Ms. Haley, 38, was born Nimrata Nikki Randhawa, the daughter of Indian Sikh immigrants. Now she is the Christian, Republican nominee for governor in a state with a brutal history of racial oppression.

What’s notable about Ms. Haley’s campaign, like that of Mr. Obama and other candidates, is not just that she has breached a racial and cultural barrier, but that she doesn’t feel the need — or the desire — to talk much about it.

Matt Bai goes on to write:

This blurring of racial and ethnic lines is, for the most part, deeply inspiring, the manifestation of hard-won progress.

Bai appears to celebrate the predictable result of what I’ll call the Color-Blind Ideal, this notion that one can walk into a room of people and just see people and not color (race, ethnicity).   Back in the 1990’s a  professor of mine called attention to the insidiousness of an ideal rooted in not seeing a person.  What does it mean to be color blind?  Is it not possible to SEE diversity, experience diversity, and at the same time treat people fairly and equitably?

So voters can move beyond the fact that Nikki Haley has a mildly brown hue as long as there are no other obvious connections to her Indian, Sikh ancestry and as long as she doesn’t talk about her ancestry… and this represents progress?  For me the article reads like dark comedy.   Que the eighties makeover sequence where Nimrata shortens her name to Nikki, embraces Christianity and doesn’t care much to talk about her Indian ancestry.   Is this a necessary step?  If “Nikki” can be elected today, does that make it more likely that “Nimrata” can be elected in the future?

P. S.
Many critiqued Chris Matthews for his comments following a speech by President Obama, comments that seemed born out of the color blind ideal.  Matthews said that he forgot that Obama was black for an hour and that Obama was post-racial.  (Matt Bai refers to Nikki Haley as a post-racial politician.)   Freedom Eden recaps The Daily Show’s negative critique here. The Take Away interviews David Wall Rice, assistant professor in department of psychology at Morehouse College in Atlanta, who gives a more nuanced critique:

DavidJW left the following comment at The Take Away:

Chris Matthews is okay is my book, his comment simply solidifies the fact that White America are working towards not looking at individuals based on the color of their skin. Come on people, we’re making progress…

As to the above comment, in the past I thought the words “skin color” included reference to a wider cultural identity. Did that meaning change over time or did I misunderstand? Is it skin color diversity (YES) but cultural diversity (No)?