As we turn to the business of electing a new president, we can not help but note that an African American candidate, for the first time in our history, enters the contest as a serious contender to win the biggest prize in American politics.

Britt Hume asserted this week on Fox News Sunday (transcript via RCP) that, "Barack Obama's race was an asset." Is that true? Is Hume right that Obama's race is the key component in his portfolio that explains his meteoric rise? In other words, can you imagine the Obama juggernaut if the candidate presented identical credentials sans his race?

What role does race play in our culture today?

Consider this wire story via Drudge, which highlights a college party on the campus of Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, in which white students held a "Martin Luther King Jr. Day party that mocked black stereotypes by featuring fried chicken, malt liquor and faux gang apparel."

Are we in danger of losing our balance between two positive values: protecting and pepetuating free and reasonable discourse and embracing racial sensitivity?

An aside: In college, I once attended a "come as your favorite dead celebrity" party in which one of my fraternity brothers arrived as the crucified Christ. It was tasteless, and I was offended. But it didn't make the papers.

The right to free speech generally includes the right to be wrong, imbecilic and vulgar.

Michael Richards. He could have called a white heckler a m-f-ing, a-hole, son of a whore from Hell, and I wager there would not have been any repercussions within the room, much less a national reaction.

Is it rational that certain words elicit such disproportionate reflexive cultural responses?

Should it bother us that the Congressional Black Caucus reserves the right to refuse entry to white representatives?

The Duke Rape Case?

The intense coverage of two black coaches in the Super Bowl?

Joab's House of Blog wonders if the intense focus on race doesn't perpetuate racism:

"When I see Lovie Smith and Tony Dungy I see the head coach of the Bears and the Colts respectively. I do not see two black men, unless someone points out that they are black. Then my focus is directed toward their skin color. Doing that is what keeps race an issue in our society" (read entire post here).

I am not ignorant of the historical realities that bring us to these questions. Notwithstanding, considering the American past, and looking toward a harmonious future, is our present racial reality healthy and just?

These questions only scratch the surface. Please accept this brief post as notice of my intentions to consider this broader topic in greater detail in the weeks and months to come. I welcome your comments and your ideas.