In a recent article at The Root, columnist Keli Goff discusses newly minted Republican VP candidate Paul Ryan’s past history.

Among candidates’ talk of political aspirations for the country, it’s become commonplace to dig into their pasts in hopes of finding something incriminating, or at the very least, embarrassing. This tends to come in handy when the media decides to create misconceptions and lies surrounding presidential hopefuls, like President Barack Obama’s citizenship theories. But what Goff touched on was another issue often placed in the public eye: the implications that political figures’ spouses/past relationships have on their decisions and policies.

She writes about Paul Ryan’s black ex-girlfriend, elaborating on whether or not it makes him more racially sensitive to the needs of African Americans.

“Here’s a well-known phrase that has virtually become a punch line: When someone finds himself on the ropes facing an allegation of racism, the go-to reflex defense is usually something along the lines of ‘But some of my best friends are black!’ Translation: “I can’t possibly be racist or racially insensitive because there are black people I like and they like me. So there.’ Many of us are so used to hearing this — and, frankly, dismissing it (remember George Zimmerman’s media-friendly pal Joe Oliver?) — that we long ago stopped asking, What if it’s actually true?”

It may be easy to dismiss a question like that after focusing on much of Ryan’s other conservative beliefs, and whose policies will most likely mirror much of Mitt Romney’s. But what if that question applied to another person of stature? Have who political figures dated in the past mattered to you? If Michelle Obama was white, would you think President Obama was less racially sensitive or possibly even incapable of understanding the needs of African-American women?

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