It’s not about the Constitution.

President Obama released the ‘long form’ version of his birth certificate yesterday.

He didn’t have to. No other president in U.S. history, or contender thereof, has been subject to the kind of xenophobic, racist, bigoted scrutiny that Barack Obama has. There’s no “you must provide a copy of the long form of your birth certificate to your detractors” clause in the Constitutional provisions determining eligibility for presidential office. But this foolishness has gotten out of hand, with four in ten Republicans believing that Obama wasn’t born on American soil, despite his having already produced a birth certificate – and an affidavit – to the contrary. So the president evidently decided, here ya go, crazies.

With the release of the additional, ‘somehow-much-more-convincing-than-the-first-one’ birth certificate, this non-issue can finally be put to rest, hopefully (right? right??). But while the additional documentation “solves” the issue for reasonable folks, it won’t solve it for those who can’t reconcile themselves to the reality of having a president whose race/cultural experience/multicultural upbringing makes him an exotic, perpetually-unknown, mysterious “other.” For those folks it ain’t about facts, proof, citizenship, good faith, logic, or any of that noise. To them, Obama is so clearly not-“American” that no matter what technicalities permit him to be the legal president, he just can’t be. There’s no possible way.

So, in the aftermath of new and improved proof that the president is a citizen, I feel just as unsettled about the reality of racism in America as before. I feel just as unsettled about the reality of xenophobia in America as before. I feel just as unsettled about the reality of religious bigotry in America as before, and I feel all of these things because throughout all of this we still are too cowardly to acknowledge the reality that racism, xenophobia, and religious bigotry are at the heart of the “Where’s the birth certificate?” nonsense that has crippled our public discourse for years. And they’re at the heart of Donald Trump’s “where’s the report card?” nonsense, and probably at the heart of the next thing he comes out with too.

We need to start calling this out plainly. The endless efforts at ‘otherizing’ Obama aren’t about reasonable disagreement. Barack Obama is a American, a Christian, and our president. Refusal to believe that he is American – talking to you, 4-in-10 Republicans – is plain xenophobia. Refusal to believe that he deserved to attend the ivy league schools he excelled in – Donald Trump – is plain racism. Refusal to believe that he isn’t a secret Muslim – armchair warriors – is plain religious bigotry. I’m sick of standing by while xenophobic, racist, bigoted nonsense permeates our public discourse as if it were legitimate. It isn’t. It’s time for the media – or the rest of us in the meantime – to start calling things what they really are.

Update: A hard truth from Baratunde:

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On hijacking the racial pain of others, or why we white folks need to stop thinking about “race issues” as if they were external from ourselves

Here’s something that just happened on Facebook. One of my friends, a woman of color, shared an article that named 10 Conversations the author wanted to stop having with white people. In response to her post, a white male Facebook friend of hers left a bunch of comments in which he shared personal experiences of having been the target of racial prejudice, and lamented the unfairness of people judging him just because he is white. And from that point, everyone, including myself, thus became engaged in an extended back-and-forth with this guy about his self-proclaimed victimization as a white man. He was able to do something I think happens quite a lot, which is when a person of privilege ‘hijacks’ a discussion which in some way calls out their privilege, changing the focus from the unfairness of the privilege, to soothing the feelings of those who are privileged. Which demonstrates how privilege allows us to escape from the implications on injustice.

Here’s the thing: white people should be processing our pain which stems from racism. We should certainly bring to light our feelings of sadness and discomfort and grief and shame and all else that dwells just under the surface of our white skins, sure as the nose on your face, despite our best efforts at suppressing all that shit. We should be processing these and other issues precisely because they get in the way of our relationships with people whose skin and privilege do not look like ours. We should process these and other issues precisely so that we aren’t inappropriately trying to process them on other people’s turf, or in the midst of other people expressing their pain.

We tend to do stuff like hijacking racial teachable moments because we don’t create these other, more appropriate outlets for this kind of racial processing. That stems from us thinking about race only insofar as it applies to others, but not ourselves.

Talk about it, white people. Don’t just horn in on other people’s discussions about race and racism. Let’s get together – on our own time – and let the whiteness tumble out.

On Lazarus: While We Wait

We started a three week sermon series on the story of Lazarus today.  I preached the first part today.  It went well.  First, the scripture:

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ But when Jesus heard it, he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’ Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

Then after this he said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?’ Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.’ After saying this, he told them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.’ Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’ Thomas, who was called the Twin,said to his fellow-disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away,and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’ (John 11:1-27, NRSV)

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