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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Glaring racism, then and now.

Did you know that people used to name their pets after ethnic groups?

Chalk Talk for Sunday Schools, by Harlan Tarbell

I just picked up an old book (1924) about drawings for Sunday School, and there it is right on page 30: a lovely story about two kittens, Snowball and N—-r. You see, one of them has white fur, and the other, black. I leave it to you to figure out which is which. Then I recalled that large, black dog in Jack London’s Call of the Wild whose name was ‘Nig.’

So people used to name their pets N—-r. Wow! And that was once considered to be completely normal, even as today most people would regard it as blatantly wrong. By our liberated, contemporary standards, this crazy racism seems otherworldly, a totally alien thing that we clearly would never do now, right?

…And then I remembered all the mascots that are named after native folk, today, for the entertainment of the masses: the Cleveland Indians, the Chicago Blackhawks, the Washington Redskins, the Atlanta Braves, the Kansas City Chiefs, and many, many more.

So on the one hand, naming personal pets after ethnic groups is totally wrong.

Yet, naming public pets (mascots) after ethnic groups is totally fine.

WTF?  No, it isn’t.

Blinded by 'The Blind Side'

Note:  haven’t seen the film.  However, I have been reading lots of different takes on it, particularly in the comments sections.  I feel I have enough of  a grasp of the basic premise to discuss some of the social implications of The Blind Side as they turn up out here in the news sites and blogosphere.

– – – – – – – – –

What does the movie The Blind Side say to different people?

To well-meaning white people, this movie might be an invitation to celebrate a shining example in which white generosity and courage save the day for a poor, black male.  That feels pretty good.  In our yearning for racial equality on our terms, it is tempting to want to celebrate an example of black ghettoization successfully assimilated into white society – if perhaps not in these exact terms.

But who else is this movie speaking to?  Black people?  If so, what is it saying?  Nothing good, from where I sit.

And therein lies the problem.  “Blind Side” is a “for us, by us” movie for white people, designed to make us feel better about ourselves in the context of our racial privilege.  It assuages our racial guilt like a sin offering of snake oil.

But given the reality of ongoing racism, such self-affirmation is ultimately as fake and flimsy as a Hollywood backdrop.  We’ll need to do more than adopt a black child every now and then if we are ever going to build a just and free society.  In the meantime, patting ourselves on the back for (someone else’s) “job well done” may indeed be self-gratifying, but is entirely counterproductive.

Barack Hussein Obama is (not) MUSLIM

If you get email and have a crazy relative or friend, you’ve probably already heard that Obama is MUSLIM and that he goes to a RACIST CHURCH and that his (former) pastor, Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright is a BLACK SEPARATIST.

From what I can tell, these emails can be summarized thusly: OMG OMG OMG BLACK SCARY MUSLIM OBAMA SEPARATIST SCARY BLACK OBAMA MUSLIM BLACK HUSSEIN TERRORIST WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE NOOOOOOOOOOO.

But that’s absurd, you might say. Obama is Christian, his church isn’t racist, and Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright is a Christian minister, who has never advocated black separatism. Yeah, but seriously – in the land of anonymous email, who cares? Why get bogged down worrying about truth or integrity when the best fallacious smears only take 4 easy steps:

  1. Take a single shred of truth: Obama’s middle name is Hussein
  2. Introduce racist innuendo: Evil Muslim Dictator Saddam’s Hussein’s last name is Hussein!!!
  3. Arrive at your new conclusion: Holy Balls, Barack Obama is Muslim!
  4. Use subtle clues instead of stating this directly: “Hey guys, did you see that new Barack HUSSEIN Obama ad?”

And you’re done! Now, wasn’t that simple? Now, just be sure to foward this to 4,000 of your close, personal friends.

P.S. The next time you get one of these aforementioned lying emails, please do me a favor. Consider hitting “Reply all” and sending back the following: “OMG OMG OMG BLACK SCARY MUSLIM OBAMA SEPARATIST SCARY BLACK OBAMA MUSLIM BLACK HUSSEIN TERRORIST WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE NOOOOOOOOOOO.”

Just think how much better you’ll feel.