"If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?"Excerpt from William Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, ca. 1596-98
President Barack Obama on Wednesday, April 27, 2011 publicly confronted issues of his citizenship in a press conference today. He produced a long-form copy of his birth certificate. Going back to his original candidacy for the Presidency, there has been an ongoing rumor that Obama was not born in Hawaii but rather was born elsewhere, presumably Kenya, the homeland of his father. Obama called the Birther allegations "silliness" and attributed the ongoing gossip-gone-mainstream concerning his citizenship status the territory of "sideshows and carnival barkers." Obama went further to mention the other issues facing the country in terms of the ongoing recession, unemployment and foreign-affairs: "I've got better stuff to do."
My feelings are mixed about this. If it was me I never would have had a press conference about it, but hey, I'm not the Prez.. I felt that the birther allegations were nonsense from the beginning, and I am embarrassed for this country that such a baseless rumor has been allowed to become a mainstream debate. It really illustrates how low the level of public discourse has sunk here-- if it 'ever' was that high to begin with.
On one hand, this would have been a perfect opportunity for the Prez to say, "Okay, here it is, now shut the hell up!".. only of course the Prez is not that type of guy (on-camera), and of course the people doing the most moaning about this, in their heart of hearts, the tea party faithful really don't care whether he was born in Kenya or Chicago.
The current RNC Chairman Reince Preibus is a surly sort of the highest order- "The president ought to spend his time getting serious about repairing our economy," Priebus said. "Unfortunately his campaign politics and talk about birth certificates is distracting him from our number one priority — our economy." So, Mr. Preibus, near everybody in your party has done nothing to squash a sensationalist rumor but now that it has been met head-on (again), the President is 'playing politics'. Curious.
This is in one sense a victory for the intellectually bankrupt, a sad update of the "so when did you stop beating your wife" type of question. On the other hand, we'll see whether this forces GOP leadership to actually come up with some substantive solutions to the immediate issues facing the country and not enabling a flaky business tycoon's flight of fancy.. I fail to see what the appeal "ever" was as far as Donald Trump and African-Americans.. other than he's wealthy, and some people are caught up in the "You gotta respect a hustler" nonsense, what was the 'connection' really about? (and what does Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth have to say about her former boss?)
In the days of American slavery, Africans in non-slave territories (usually in the Northern territories) were expected to be able to show their papers to prove their non-slave status, or else be subject to "deportation" back to southern, slave territories. Even after slavery was abolished, the trend continued as Jim Crow laws and customs took over. Being caught in 'any' community that had a vested interest in harassing and otherwise keeping its black population under duress (translation: just about anywhere) without state identification papers or an ID card could get an African-American labeled as a vagrant or possibly an escaped criminal, and thus subject to arrest, and subsequently subject to any number of abuses, including imprisonment, torture, sexual assault (particularly of women) and murder.
Also during Jim Crow, policies were enacted like the 'grandfather clause', wherein if an African-American's grandfather was a slave, then their progeny were banned from being allowed to vote. Despite the 14th Amendment (effectively adopted as a confirmation of black citizenship, post-slavery) African-Americans were still considered, at best, second-class citizens for roughly 100 years after legal emancipation took place.
Today, I saw an eerie parallel of that scenario that any number of African-Americans' ancestors had to go through. Nearing 50 years of age, having been born in and having spent the majority of his time on earth in this country, having been elected to the highest public office in this country, and.. well.. he still has to prove that he belongs here. Having to prove not just his citizenship, but, effectively, his humanity. This is the nefarious challenge that legions of people of color have to endure in some form or another: Despite all that you have or can accomplish, that ultimately, you don't count, based on the whims of a few.
The contemporary Republican Party and today's conservative-idealogue culture is rife with bigots of all grudges. Strangely, the African-Americans aligned with the GOP have not defected en masse in the aftermath of all the birther-talk and related goings-on. Maybe, for these people, they're just having too much fun at the carnival.