In 1985, Barack Obama had just arrived in Chicago for his new job as a community organizer when he headed to Smitty’s Barbershop, a tiny storefront on the South Side. As Smitty cut his hair, Obama listened to the men in the shop talk politics and racial grievance. When the barber finished, he handed Obama a mirror and said, “Haircut’s ten dollars. What’s your name, anyway?”
“Barack, huh,” Smitty responded. “You a Muslim?”
“Grandfather was,” Obama said, according to his memoir Dreams From My Father.
Smitty’s question, which Obama didn’t exactly answer, prefigured a controversy that continues to this day.
Everyone on MSNBC who seemed to be angry at poll respondents yesterday for not being clear on Obama’s religion should consider the president’s approach and optics on the matter.