Friday, April 29, 2011

This has Been Unworthy of All of Us

The terrible tragedy associated with the impeding demise of the birther movement (and possibly the TEA Party?), is probably compounded by its close relationship to the Republican Party.

The party of Lincoln, of Theodore Roosevelt, of Eisenhower, of Reagan, is incredibly close to being marginalized into irrelevance by allowing itself to be hijacked by racism and extremists. The birther fiasco, its stance on immigration, its willingness to excuse the uber bigoted fringe element that finds comfort edging its way in from its periphery, all speak ill of this party's future. It must either correct the problem or it must they must openly declare themselves to be totally uninterested in any relationship with minorities in this country.

Oh I know, at some point people will point to members of their party or those who share their ideology who happen to be black or Hispanic. You can also find pictures of black soldiers in Confederate Army uniforms. I promise you, it wasn't because they were in love with slavery!

At bottom and at best, birther claims, as well as all other claims that seek to deligitimize President Barack Obama are racist. Not opposition to his policies. Not disagreement with his values. Not genuine party opposition. But the efforts to paint him as unqualified and mysteriously other are clearly based on the inability of a noisy segment of our country unable to accept a black man cast in the position that, since the founding of this country, made only white males 'the most powerful leader in the free world'.

It is interesting that 'conservatives' who implore (if not complain) that blacks don't get an education, blacks don't have ambition, they have children out of wedlock and can't maintain solid marriages and family life. Yet Barack Obama puts the lie to all of this and so that means he cannot possibly be a real citizen. And if he's not a citizen, he is not constitutionally eligible to be President.

Of course, if he is a citizen, then all that we hear about his brilliance must be called into question: he couldn't really be an author. He couldn't possibly have earned a Columbia University degree or a Harvard Law degree and - well, let's just not talk about him being Editor of the Harvard Law Revue - we all know how he must have accomplished that!

The problem is that blacks and other minorities know that these suspicions are not new ground. We've all heard it before. We hear it whenever we accomplish more than 'we should'. When we show ourselves smarter than a white person who didn't have the advantages of some of his or her more accomplished peers. If we get the corner office, or the promotion, or the raise, it has to be because someone 'gave' it to us, not because it was earned. And now we know that it this includes being overwhelmingly elected to the highest office in the land.

But there is something else. What do we say to young minority children who are called upon to excel - to get a good education, to become good citizens, to be responsible and to devote their lives to public service? As a country, are we honest with them and tell them that if you do all of that, you will only get real respect if you limit yourself to making an hourly wage? If you never aspire to own the company for which you work? Or if you decide to work at city hall and not become the mayor at city hall? Or that if you accomplish more than the white children in your school or the school across town you must remember that you will be called less than legitimate if you supervise them, as opposed to being supervised by them?

The current President of the United States has a two year track record on which to run and on which he may be attacked, if any opponent wishes. Health Care, tax policy, the economy, arguably three wars in which we are now engaged. Heck, you can even argue whether or not he deserves his Nobel Peace Prize! What Donald Trump, who rushed to head of the birther parade to carry their standard, have decided is to ignore politics (real politics) and ignore policy and sink to prejudice and bigotry. Of course, nearly every time his opponents have tried to publicly argue policy with the President he ultimately ends up the smartest person in the room and his opponents wonder why they even tried in the first place. And so we get what we've just seen in the past couple of days.

There was something brilliant about Obama producing his birth certificate on Wednesday. But there was also something pathetic about it as well. A sitting President having to producing his papers to prove he is a citizen. There was a time in this country when, in order to travel without the company of whites, black people had to carry with them their 'papers'. When blacks went to vote, they had to answer questions that proved their citizenship - how many marbles were in a jar, recite the entire Constitution, pay poll tax. Now, show us your birth certificate to prove that you are legitimate. You have a drivers license. You have a law degree from Harvard University. You have a passport. You've taught Constitutional law. But we need to see if the birth certificate that needs to be produced at some point to get some or any of these responsibilities and privileges, isn't enough - we need to see it.

It is embarrassing.

It is humiliating.

It is demeaning.

Not just to Barack Obama. Not just to black Americans.

It embarrasses, humiliates and demeans all of us.

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