Black History Month officially began Sunday, though it actually arrived two weeks ago when Barack Obama was inaugurated as our nation’s first black president. That historic event was followed by Friday’s election of former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele to be the first black head of the Republican National Committee.

Of course, it remains to be seen what effect Steele’s election will have on the GOP. But for now, right or wrong, it appears that installing Steele as head of a political party largely comprised of white people is a bit of stunt casting in reaction to Obama’s soaring popularity. I am not saying that Steele is not qualified for the job, just that the timing of his election is interesting in the same way Sarah Palin’s selection as GOP vice presidential nominee was following Hillary Clinton’s presidential primary loss to Obama. The coincidence is too much to ignore in both cases.

However, the GOP seems to have done its homework better in choosing Steele. John Aloysius Farrell, a contributing editor at U.S. News & World Report, recently described Steele as “charismatic, conservative, media savvy and, incidentally, a person of color.” Palin may be charismatic and conservative, but she sure isn’t media savvy. By that fact alone, Steele surely is a step ahead of her in the game.

It will be interesting to see if Steele’s leadership will help change the Republican Party’s image for the better. Will he call for a more inclusive political party that appeals to more minorities? Only time will tell, but it will be worth watching for the answer.