The Hard Lesson of White Racism

When Hitler targeted us, he proved we were not Aryan by making us wear identifying patches. Black people do not have that choice .. a lesson that is hard for anyone not black to appreciate.

I am embarrassed.  When Mr. Obama became President I celebrated.  I was happy because, as  a Jewish American, I have never believed someone like me could become President of this white christian country.   I stupidly saw Barack Obama as being another ethnic name .. like Schmuel Mosheh Negri .. my Hebrew name.

When the birth certificate was made an issue, I failed to see the racism and saw only more of the right wing hate machine.  I even wrote a piece of satire, turning the event into .. I thought .. a comedy.  I failed.  I did not understand how near to the surface is the filthy crude of American racism.

This morning, however, I read a remarkable post by  Emily L. Hauser at her blog In My Head. Ms. Hauser, also not black, has collected reactions form a series of black writers and intellectuals.  The comments speak for themselves.

Ta-Nehisi Coates writes at The Atlantic:

This is a racism of the bone.

My ire is not so much for those who see their interests in that frame, but for the Very Serious People, who see nothing in the fact that those who are sorry that this country wasn’t cleaved in half by Genosha, and those who believe the first black president is a Muslim sleeper agent, are all at the same party. Who with a straight face chalk it up to the inexplicable vagaries of the human mind, or mere chance.

My ire is for those who claim to know better, but do not.

I am really pissed off and quite frankly hurting. Today President Obama released his long form birth certificate to answer questions about where he was born. I can’t remember this being an issue for any other American president or presidential candidate in recent history…. While Obama’s opponent in 2008, Senator John McCain, was in fact born in Panama, it is President Obama who was forced to prove he was born here.The message to all people of color, especially African American men is: “You are not good enough.”
One last point: It’s really amazing that we’re even talking about this. In a sane world, the President of the United States wouldn’t have to release personal information to quell conspiracies about his citizenship…. To a depressingly large number of Americans, “blackness” runs counter to this country’s identity, and an African American president is, by definition, illegitimate.

The Negro was made an American through the sin of slavery but kept this identity through the sacrifices of citizenship: taxes, military duty, labor, effort, patriotism and struggle. Few acts of racism elicit more disgust among black folks descended from eighteenth-century slaves than being told to “go back to Africa” by a white person whose American heritage goes back only to the twentieth century.When birthers accuse President Obama of not having a “real” birth certificate, they’re telling him to “go back to Africa.” It’s a taunt he’s able to dismiss because he knows exactly where and when he’s from. But for black Americans descended from slaves, to question one’s birth raises perhaps a more troublesome enigma: to be born in servitude to someone, but from nowhere.

Historian Blair LM Kelley writes:

The hardened historian in me wasn’t surprised, but I was struck by the sick theatre of a sitting president making special appeal to the state of Hawaii in the effort to prove not only that his election was legitimate, but that his citizenship is valid…. I was struck by the profound disappointment of the Obama generation at the state of black citizenship. I was thinking about horror of the president having to show his papers, echoing with the millions of migrant workers, documented and undocumented who have to show papers everyday and are never pre-supposed citizens.
It hurts more than I thought it would. I’m taking it more personally than perhaps seems rational, but I feel sucker-punched.
And Baratunde Thurston (Jack, of Jack and Jill Politics), with tears welling up more than once, said this (he said it in a video, which can be seen here, but the words are so powerful, I want to pin them down. All emphasis is Thurston’s):

This has been a very difficult morning for me. I got the news that President Obama released his long-form birth certificate due to the increasing media circus surrounding claims that he is not one of us, that he is not American….

[Looking back at the history of the civil rights era], you’re reminded of the extraordinary sacrifice that has been involved in allowing all of Americans to exist as, be treated as, participate as, Americans — to be that which they are.

…[Civil rights activists] got on buses and freedom rides, they sat in, they died, in waves and waves of domestic terrorism, so that someone like me could go into a voting booth and not be asked, by some racist poll worker, to pay a tax… or pass a literacy test.

…And today, the President of the United States had to prove that he was an American to the satisfaction of the 75% of Iowa Republicans who doubt that, or the 43% of national Republicans who doubt that, or the one heinous, low-class individual who took credit for it after, Donald Trump.

…I find it hard to summarize in mere words the amount of pain and rage this incident has caused. It’s humiliating — not just to Barack Obama, not just to the office of the President, not just to black Americans and those who supported our quest for freedom. It’s embarrassing to the entire nation, that we would sit and let this happen. We have all been debased by this incident.

…My name is Baratunde Thurston. I’m heart-broken over this.

0 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Billy E. Kemp #

    I too was deeply hurt and felt the pain and was quickly taken back to the memory of growing up in St. Louis. Always having to enter the back of restaurants and hold my head and eyes down as whites’ passes never to look them in the eyes. Never wanting to draw attention to myself always simply hoping to be lost in the shadows.

    This firestorm is simply a continuation of the Arizona law SB 1070 requiring non-whites to always carry papers and proper identification at all times. If we blacks thought this was going to be contained to just the state of Arizona or border states… Well the cat is out of the bag… No piece of paper or documentation or social position in business or in your community is ever going to be good enough for this racist group.

    The problem we have to fix is to stop allowing the media to give these carnival barkers attention. We will never heal as a nation until we stop giving this minor group a platform.

    Their views are not true American values, so why continue to allow them a platform?

  2. Clarence Spigner #

    Frankly, its not a surprise since this kind of nonsense fits in with all the other rudeness that has been inflicted upon President Obama; from being called a liar my a moronic senator from a southern backwater state while addressing the congress to being questioned about why money was spent on providing security protection for his family at a show. It is interesting that it took another southern white man to call such behavior exactly what it is. President Jimmy Carter called such acts racist. I should be filled with consternation. And yet this event of our president being forced to show his birth certificate fits in with the behavior of the Obama-bashers. Why else can a shameless capitalist and side-showman like Donald Trump draw even more attention to himself by living off the racism of others. Recall, Trump’s inspiration came from polls ranking him a front-runner for the 2012 presidential election. Next thing you know, he’ll want to see President Obama’s transcript from Harvard. The media will likely play into that as well.