I generally don’t pay attention to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, because there isn’t that much to pay attention to. He’s a prominent voice in the GOP establishment, but he’s been previously overlooked in favor of repeat presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann. There’s talk of him running in 2016, but my expectations of him getting into the primary and remaining there are low. The GOP leadership doesn’t need an establishment Republican from the Deep South, at least, not this election. And if Louisiana resident and American Conservative senior editor Rod Dreher has anything to say about it, Jindal has been far from the consummate governor, which weaken his chances at the outset.
But Jindal did do something noteworthy this week; he handled a would-be racial controversy with poise, something the GOP establishment is not especially well known for. There was a brief misunderstanding about which portrait was the “official” portrait of Governor Jindal. A liberal Twitter user tweeted a portrait of the governor that was loaned by an enthusiastic but possibly color-blind constituent, who painted the governor a few shades lighter. A flurry of outrage ensured. “OMG! They’re whitewashing Bobby Jindal!” It turned out that the portrait in question was not of the governor, and that Governor Jindal indeed knew he was not light-skinned.
Governor Jindal chose to reply with humor: “You mean I’m not white?” he joked. Ever the politician, he took his opportunity to criticize his opponents: “I think the left is obsessed with race,” he said. He dismissed the backlash about the portrait as “silly” and added that “the dumbest thing we can do is try to divide people by the color of their skin…We’re all Americans.”
Jindal is of Indian ancestry, and that fact has been almost entirely irrelevant to his political career and whatever ambitions he may harbor for 2016. He may have experienced racism in the past, and may experience it now. But being a person of color does not mean every situation you are in is embroiled in racism. Sometimes, it just isn’t about race. Not even for those of us who aren’t white. Strange, I know. But it’s true.