Birtherism, Racism, and Affirmative Action

This morning I opened my browser to read the news online and found this headline: Obama Birth Certificate Released by the White House.  My heart sunk.  “Damnit . . . he gave in,” I thought to myself.  I can understand why he would do it.  After a while, I am sure that Obama and the White House were sick of all of the discussion of where he was born.  This might be able to keep things focused on the issues rather than on Obama’s citizenship.  Wrong.

To help us understand this absurdity, we need to recognize that a majority of people in the United States have at least some doubt as to whether Obama was born in the United States.  Only 38% of Americans completely believe Obama when he says that he was born in Hawaii to an American mother and Kenyan father.  Most recently, this charge has been led by Donald Trump, corporate clown/potential Republican presidential candidate/reality TV star, but it is a charge that has been echoed by both the left and right since Obama announced his candidacy for president (after all, Hillary Clinton called for his birth certificate to be released as well).

For those of you reading this who still question his citizenship, here’s his birth certificate:

“Well, why didn’t he release it a long time ago?  Why wasn’t he willing to be completely forthcoming?”  I’ve heard those questions a thousand times, and I’ve been hearing them in all of the political chatter today.  Well, I don’t know Obama’s motivations, but I didn’t want him to release his birth certificate.  I didn’t want him to because the calls for him to do so are based in nothing but blatant racism.

When John McCain ran against Barack Obama, it was widely assumed that he was an American citizen (even though he was actually born much further away than Obama on a U.S. base in Panama).  When George W. Bush was elected, there was no question as to whether he was an American citizen.  Never before has the citizenship of a president (all of them white with anglo-sounding names) been questioned seriously, let alone have the majority of Americans thought the president might have been born outside of the United States.  What’s the difference now?  Well, to start with, our president has sort of a funny-sounding name: Barack Hussein Obama.  Sounds kind of like a terrorist to me!  Not only that . . . he’s BLACK!  *GASP*

This is nothing new.  Black folks in the U.S. have been asked to show their papers for quite some time (and now it’s expected of other brown folks)!  This is simply continuing a racist tradition meant to keep folks of color in their place.

When he spoke about Obama “finally” releasing his birth certificate (and after a typical ego trip – “Today I’m very proud of myself . . .”), Trump dares to ask why it took so long for Obama to show his papers.

His racist fear-mongering about Obama being some sort of Kenyan Manchurian Candidate can’t even be quelled by the release of Obama’s long-form birth certificate.  Instead, Trump repeated his recent assertion that Obama was actually unqualified to gain admittance to the Ivy League schools he attended.  Again, lots of folks have argued that this is a fair question.  “Didn’t people also question Bush’s credentials that got him into the Ivy League?”

True, but asking a rich, white male to prove that he wasn’t simply admitted to Yale through a legacy admission is contextually quite different than asserting that the nation’s first Black president was the simpleton product of Affirmative Action.  After all, while the majority of Americans favor Affirmative Action in theory, when they are given scenarios of how Affirmative Action can be accomplished, they resoundingly disapprove.  For Trump to assert that a Black, magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law and the first Black editor of the Harvard Law Review was somehow unqualified to gain admission to the Ivy League (despite his clear success in such an institution) is to appeal to a white, racially-driven discomfort with Affirmative Action policies.  After all, Trump even asserts that he knows plenty of qualified white males who can’t get acceptance into the Ivy League.  Obama clearly must have stolen one of their places (which presumes that he, in no way, has a place or is welcome in such an institution).

The problem that Barack Obama faces, a problem that cannot be cured by the release of any records, is not in his birthplace or in his school records.  After all, even today, after the President released his birth certificate, birthers claimed that he is still unqualified to be president because his Indonesian step-father may have adopted him, thus nullifying his U.S. citizenship.  The problem the President faces is that he is Black.  This country was not designed for a black man to be president, and some people cannot accept that he (and all of the political reformers and civil rights activists before him) somehow managed to make that happen.  I like the way that Rachel Maddow put it on her blog.

“Birthers may not be convinced until the President actually stops being black.”


One thought on “Birtherism, Racism, and Affirmative Action

  1. More to the point, wouldn’t the fact that Obama got in by Affirmative Action be ringing success for the policy? I mean, here is a guy who–according to Pat Buchanan and others– got a leg up at admissions, excelled (by graduating with latin honors) and then went on to be President. What better outcome for Affirmative Action is there?

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