BTSF in chronological order (most recent articles appear first):

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Birthers, Trump, Obama, and Racism

This week, the President of the United States was compelled to show proof of his citizenship to this country. He characterizes the ordeal as a bunch of "silliness," but in reality, it's an extremely serious matter. For those that wonder what the big deal is ("why not just show the document and be done with it?"), and for those that feel that Trump can just be dismissed as a raving loony, let me break it down for you.

We have been hearing false claims about Obama's nationality for a long time now. It was one of those campaign smears that should have just faded away after the election was over. Yet the issue has stuck, and it's worth examining why that might be.

In the United States, we have a history of denying citizenship, and indeed humanity to people of color. Today, there persists a vicious attitude of 'otherization' against anyone without white skin. It is the reason why 'Asian' kids, whose families have lived in the USA for generations, are still asked where they are from, and why if you happen to wear a Pagri you are more likely to be frisked at the airport, even if you show a US passport.

Societies wishing to marginalize its unwanted members have imposed strict documentation policies to aid in their discrimination. Both in the United States, and abroad, the bark of 'show me your papers' embodies supremacist arrogance. Currently, in Arizona and Georgia, we are watching as racism and xenophobia manifest themselves in modern identification law.

And this week, though he has reached the highest office in the nation, the President also had to 'show his papers.' And this week wasn't the first time Obama had to make such concessions. He published his common birth certificate (good enough for a driver's licence and passport), he had affidavits signed, he had doctors make statements. But the skepticism persisted.

Though he is supposedly 'the most powerful man on earth,' he cannot escape the humiliation that comes with being dark skinned in this country. And that hurts. It is painful to know that supposedly 'after how far we have come' our President is still having to appease, and cater to the whims of, taunting white folks.  It should grieve us to see how far this has gone.

Think it isn't about race? It might be a different situation if every president submitted his long form certificate on Inauguration Day, or if the nationality of the white candidates wasn't taken for granted. But if the President (or voter, or driver, or airline passenger, or coworker) is white and speaks with the proper accent, it doesn't even occur to us to ask about where she or he was born.

The other birth certificate


Take John McCain for example: of the two presidential candidates in 2008, it was John McCain that wasn't born in the USA!! McCain was born in Panama, yet few voters knew this fact, let alone question his eligability for the presidency. The few times is was actually brought up, it was acknowledged and dropped without much fan-fair.

Yet here we are, three years into Obama's term and he still must endure the humiliation of proving his status as second-class citizen. Because 'those people simply just aren't "one of us."' Once again, the colored boy is forced jump through hoops to obtain what is rightfully his, just because an over-privileged white guy demands it be so.

Many of us didn't want him to show the certificate, because he shouldn't have to. And it makes us mad that bigotry would force the President's hand, rather than allow him to rise above and receive the same respect that most white school children enjoy every day.

Which reminds me of another thing: what exactly was Trump implying by questioning Obama's enrollment in Harvard and Columbia? Trump insinuates that that surely Obama couldn't have gotten there out of his own abilities--not someone like that. Rather than acknowledge the extant prejudices that meant Obama needed to be more qualified than the average applicant, Trump suggests that Obama met with his success through some sort of racial hand out (by now you know my thoughts on these kind of affirmative-action critiques). Every POC kid in my privileged-soaked alma mater has to face such suspicions and allegations on a constant basis, and then deal with the alienation and personal insecurities that follow. The President of the United States is apparently no exception. John McCain, mean time, graduated 894th in his college class of 899.

Good thing now that we have a black president that proves that we ended racism once and for all...

I'll share with you this video, in which baratunde expresses a lot of shared sentiments. It starts a little slow, but stick with it to the end.  As with a lot of things I repost here, those that don't need to see it, probably already have, and those that should, haven't. So check it out:



See Also:
What is a post-9/11 American?
Perpetual Foreigner
Protective Favor
Arizona's Ban on 'Ethnic Studies'

Outside links:
Birthers are Racist
Two News Stories
Donald Trump's Rants

12 comments:

  1. On behalf of Brittany:
    "This is an awesome reflection and assesment of the unfortunate facts of racism that still exsist. Thanks for sharing this post and video!"

    ReplyDelete
  2. On behalf of Jason:
    "I barely even have a passing curiosity about seeing his Birth Certificate. I don't really think for most average people it's a big deal, or really a race issue either. America isn't some gestapo police state (yet), thankfully, and most people have a good head on their shoulders and a decent heart. I just think that an overly loud group tends to get more attention and credence than they necessarily deserve and they get the press as opposed to the people who wanted to see evidence of his citizenship for other reasons. I don't think if you applied for a job that required you to have a college degree and you refused to furnish it, regardless of your color or ethnicity etc, that it would be racist for that to be an issue. I think racism will always exist, unfortunately, because stupid people will always exist. But like I said, with most people there isn't some sinister motivation"

    ReplyDelete
  3. Let's be clear, repeatedly demanding Obama's proof of citizenship is rooted in race--even if the those insisting to see it have too much privledge to realize from where their suspicion stems . Not caring either way is probably more apathetic than racially driven, except for the fact that white folk have the freedom not to have to care. You make a good point about the role of the press in all this, they are certainly not blameless.

    As to your jop application example, as I mentioned, if the standards were universially applied it might be one thing. But giving a pass to some folk, while repetedly scrutinizing others is not cool. Also, Obama did not refuse to furnish his birth certificate--he has bowed to each request even as the bar has been raised time and again.

    Finally, I want to make another thing clear: one doesn't have to be 'sinister' to be motivated by race. Dr. Beverly Tatum talks about racism being a smog that we all breathe in, it is engrained in our collective subconscious. It is like any other aspect of our sinful nature. We are all affected and 'we all fall short'. It is best to acknowledge our brokeness and how it affects us, so that we can begin reoncilliation.

    Re second post: Trump may be a moron, but that doesn't make his influence less dangerous.

    Finally, I would like your permission to repost these comments on the origional blog (http://bytheirstrangefruit.blogspot.com/) for the sake of centralized discussion.

    ReplyDelete
  4. On behalf of Jason:
    "I suppose we must agree to disagree. It's good to have passions and good to speak up about those passions. It's less good to assume because someone has a different perspective or another point of view that they are a racist or apathetic. Frankly I didn't vote for the man because he believes and supports things I fund ethically insupportable - I'd have just as soon voted for Colin Powell or Condi Rice or any number of other people regardless of their ethnicity who hold similar political / moral beliefs. I've lived in the middle of price hill in Cincinnati, I currently live in a town in the south thats 60+ % black. Its simplest to say that people are people. They are good and bad regardless of race or ethnicity. And I'd just as soon vote for a person with red/black/brown/yellow skin if I felt they would do the job well and that they best represented my political/moral beliefs."

    ReplyDelete
  5. Oh dear, Jason. Did you just play the 'I have a black friend card' and the 'colorblind' card? We should definitely stay in dialogue. You might find these post of interest: http://tinyurl.com/69kg4pa and http://tinyurl.com/6cqsqwo)

    Of course I cannot claim to know someone else's motivations, but I will assert that regardless it is irresponsible to carry on with these claims while harbouring an insensitivity to, and an ignorance of, the racialized context and history. Pretending it isn't there, doesn't make it go away. There are consequences to our corporate sins.

    I imagine we might also have a lively disagreement about what is 'ethically insupportable' politics (stay tuned for an upcoming post in about two weeks on Abortion, it's racialization, and how it affects our witness as Christians). It suffices to say, I read about Jesus caring for the poor, the sick, and the marginalized, and believe these too are 'family values.' I get frustrated when Christians focus on a couple of famous hot-button issues.

    I take it that's a no go on the comments repost?

    ReplyDelete
  6. On behalf of Jason:
    " Repost as you like. But apparently, again, we'll have to agree to be in disagreement.

    I do take issue with the argument that if you are caucasian you are inherently racist if you aren't some sort of firebrand for racial issues. Or the fact that I have lived most of my adult life in surroundings where I'm a minority of the population is seen as playing some sort of "card". Or the fact that I voted for someone OTHER than the black candidate automatically makes me a racist rather than someone who politically disagrees. The ad hominem fallacy is rife here - if I disagree with your perspective I'm a racist and if I'm a racist then clearly I'm wrong."

    ReplyDelete
  7. I didn’t mention anything about racism in relation to who you voted for.

    I am a racist. I am just trying to work that out. In modern day, the term need not apply to only know cross-burners and nazis. Again, I site Dr. Tatum that describes racism as an institutionalized system of privileges and benefits received based on race. I know I receive these benefits, from small things like knowing that band-aids and hosiery will always match my skin tone, to larger issues like knowing I will never be denied housing because of my skin color, or ever have my nationality questioned. White folk get certain benefits from being white (for example, http://tinyurl.com/2puztg and http://tinyurl.com/6ala9gz), which is, by definition, racism. We may live in the minority for a time, but ultimately we know that we can easily find our way back to people like us without ever sacrificing that much.

    I am honestly not trying to belittle you, or trap you. We are all familiar with the “I am a good person, I not a sinner” meme within a Christian context—it is the corollary to “I am not a racist, I am colorblind.” I am simply suggesting we own our brokenness. As Christians we are familiar with the idea that knowing we are in need of forgiveness is the first step.

    Thanks for the allowing the repost. I think a lot of folks at BTSF would agree with many of the points you make.

    ReplyDelete
  8. On behalf of Jason:
    "I use Spongebob band-aids..."

    ReplyDelete
  9. I was born in California, raised in California, and my father is white... but every time I go to any airport or when I used to go to Mexico it is always a hassle. There has not been one time that I am not selected for the "random" security search. It is very sad =/

    ReplyDelete
  10. Let's be clear, repeatedly demanding Obama's proof of citizenship is rooted in race--even if the those insisting to see it have too much privledge to realize from where their suspicion stems . Not caring either way is probably more apathetic than racially driven, except for the fact that white folk have the freedom not to have to care. You make a good point about the role of the press in all this, they are certainly not blameless.

    As to your jop application example, as I mentioned, if the standards were universially applied it might be one thing. But giving a pass to some folk, while repetedly scrutinizing others is not cool. Also, Obama did not refuse to furnish his birth certificate--he has bowed to each request even as the bar has been raised time and again.

    Finally, I want to make another thing clear: one doesn't have to be 'sinister' to be motivated by race. Dr. Beverly Tatum talks about racism being a smog that we all breathe in, it is engrained in our collective subconscious. It is like any other aspect of our sinful nature. We are all affected and 'we all fall short'. It is best to acknowledge our brokeness and how it affects us, so that we can begin reoncilliation.

    Re second post: Trump may be a moron, but that doesn't make his influence less dangerous.

    Finally, I would like your permission to repost these comments on the origional blog (http://bytheirstrangefruit.blo... for the sake of centralized discussion.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Oh dear, Jason. Did you just play the 'I have a black friend card' and the 'colorblind' card? We should definitely stay in dialogue. You might find these post of interest: http://tinyurl.com/69kg4pa and http://tinyurl.com/6cqsqwo)

    Of course I cannot claim to know someone else's motivations, but I will assert that regardless it is irresponsible to carry on with these claims while harbouring an insensitivity to, and an ignorance of, the racialized context and history. Pretending it isn't there, doesn't make it go away. There are consequences to our corporate sins.

    I imagine we might also have a lively disagreement about what is 'ethically insupportable' politics (stay tuned for an upcoming post in about two weeks on Abortion, it's racialization, and how it affects our witness as Christians). It suffices to say, I read about Jesus caring for the poor, the sick, and the marginalized, and believe these too are 'family values.' I get frustrated when Christians focus on a couple of famous hot-button issues.

    I take it that's a no go on the comments repost?

    ReplyDelete
  12. I didn’t mention anything about racism in relation to who you voted for.

    I am a racist. I am just trying to work that out. In modern day, the term need not apply to only know cross-burners and nazis. Again, I site Dr. Tatum that describes racism as an institutionalized system of privileges and benefits received based on race. I know I receive these benefits, from small things like knowing that band-aids and hosiery will always match my skin tone, to larger issues like knowing I will never be denied housing because of my skin color, or ever have my nationality questioned. White folk get certain benefits from being white (for example, http://tinyurl.com/2puztg and http://tinyurl.com/6ala9gz), which is, by definition, racism. We may live in the minority for a time, but ultimately we know that we can easily find our way back to people like us without ever sacrificing that much.

    I am honestly not trying to belittle you, or trap you. We are all familiar with the “I am a good person, I not a sinner” meme within a Christian context—it is the corollary to “I am not a racist, I am colorblind.” I am simply suggesting we own our brokenness. As Christians we are familiar with the idea that knowing we are in need of forgiveness is the first step.

    Thanks for the allowing the repost. I think a lot of folks at BTSF would agree with many of the points you make.

    ReplyDelete

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