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Birthers And Birtherism: An Embarrassment To The Country

This Wednesday morning became one of the most surreal and ridiculous moments
in the history of American politics when the White House decided to release copies of President Barack Obama’s “long form birth certificate,” in an attempt to quiet conspiracy theorists who believe the president was born elsewhere. The president had already released a version certified by the state of Hawaii, but because of the “volume of requests” for the birth certificate, the president asked the state to make an exception andrelease the original document.

It’s tempting to make this simply about reality television personality Donald
Trump, who rocketed to the top of the Republican presidential field by promoting
the slander that the president wasn’t born in the United States. But there are a
number of other factors that created the current situation. Chief among them is
that Trump’s lunacy emboldened conservative media sources to fully embrace
birtherism. According to Media Matters, Fox News has spent over two hours promoting false claims about Obama’s birthplace across 54 segments, and only in ten did Fox News hosts challenge those claims. This isn’t just about Trump. All he did was encourage the communications wing of the conservative movement to go into overdrive in an attempt to make birtherism mainstream.

Aside from being one of the most idiotic moments in American political
history, this marks a level of personal humiliation no previous president has
ever been asked to endure. Other presidents have been the target of crazy
conspiracy theories, sure, but few have been as self-evidently absurd as
birtherism. None has been so clearly rooted in anxieties about the president’s
racial identity, because no previous American president has been black.

This whole situation is an embarrassment to the country. Yesterday Jesse
Jackson described birtherism as racial “code,” but there’s nothing
“coded” about it. It’s just racism. I don’t mean that everyone who has doubts
about the president’s birthplace is racist. Rather, the vast majority have been
deliberately misled by an unscrupulous conservative media and by conservative
elites who have failed or refused to challenge these doubts.

And birtherism is only one of a number of racially charged conspiracy
theories that have bubbled out of the right-wing swamp and have been allowed to
fester by conservative elites. Those who have spent the last two years clinging
to the notion that the president wasn’t born in the United States, who have alleged that the president wasn’t intelligent enough to write
his own autobiography or somehow coasted to magna cum laude at Harvard law, are
carrying on new varieties of an old, dying tradition of American racism. Similar
accusations dogged early black writers like Frederick Douglass and Phyllis
Wheatley, whose brilliance provoked an existential crisis among people incapable
of abandoning myths of black intellectual inferiority.

Whether this farce ends or continues is entirely dependent on those who
nurtured the rumors in the first place. This is an opportunity for conservative
elites, who have finally come around to the possibility that the outsize hatred
of the president they’ve cultivated as an asset for the past two years might
actually hurt them politically, to purge birtherism from mainstream conservative
discourse.

Sadly, those who fostered doubts about the president’s citizenship are
unlikely to relent in the face of factual proof, because birtherism was never
about the facts. For its most ardent proponents, it was and is about their
inability to accept the legitimacy of a black man in the White House. Nothing
about the decision to release the president’s birth certificate can change that.

By: Adam Sewer, The Washington Post, April 27, 2011

April 27, 2011 - Posted by | Bigotry, Birthers, GOP, Media, Politics, President Obama, Press, Racism | , , , , , , , ,

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