Eric Herschthal is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library. He is writing a book about the antislavery movement. (June 2018)

NYR DAILY

Why Trump Could Pardon Jack Johnson When Obama Wouldn’t

Former world heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson, circa 1930s

“They couldn’t get the president to sign it,” Trump said, clearly reveling in what he, and many of his supporters, took to be a delightful irony. “So I am taking this very righteous step.” But as reporters looked into Obama’s decision, one thing became clear: Jack Johnson had a history of beating women, a fact that gave Obama pause. That Trump felt no such compunction did not merely reflect his misogyny; what Trump did not seem to realize, as he was basking in his righteousness, was that he, as a white man, had a privilege Obama did not.