What is the deal with President Barack Obama? Or maybe we should re-frame the question:
What is wrong with America?
Why is it that we have such a hard time
- believing him on his simple declarations.
- seeing him and supporting him as our President.
His presidency is historical for obvious reasons and everyone knew that he was going to experience an uphill journey but the questions he’s had to endure are ridiculous:
During the election season, he was questioned about his experience. And honestly, that was a fair question to be asked of all the candidates and especially of him. Legit.
He was questioned if he was really a Christian. With a name like Barack Hussein Obama, and his participation at a church that preached a Jesus that not only cared about salvation but reconciliation and thus, engaged issues of social justice and [Black] Liberation Theology, there could be no way – according to his critics and detractors – that he was a true Christian.
And any rhetoric of his declaration or participation in Christian faith are seen as simply for political purposes.
And of course, there’s been the ongoing drama the legitimacy of his Presidency because of speculation or rather, unbelief, about his birth certificate.
Despite documents already provided, President Obama (and the White House) released a copy of his “long birth certificate” yesterday to put the matter (hopefully) to rest. In his words:
I know that there’s going to be a segment of people for which, no matter what we put out, this issue will not be put to rest. But I’m speaking to the vast majority of the American people, as well as to the press. We do not have time for this kind of silliness. We’ve got better stuff to do. I’ve got better stuff to do. We’ve got big problems to solve. And I’m confident we can solve them, but we’re going to have to focus on them — not on this.
So, what’s the deal?
Why is it that some – and we’re not talking about “the segment of people” that are just irrational but also we’re talking about intelligent and influential leaders that have “questioned” the legitimacy of his Presidency. Why?
I suppose there’s the reality that if you dislike or disagree with someone, it doesn’t matter what that person does or says: They will always be wrong.
But there’s the factor that we try to tread carefully around: Racism.
He is and isn’t American
By implying “racism,” I’m not suggesting that folks are racist. Some of you will read this, roll your eyes, and think,
“There he goes again. Bringing up the race card.”
I’m not calling “birthers” racists. Nope. But rather, to convey how much institutional racism and racialization impact our views of normative or in this case…American. It’s very clear that Barack Obama is indeed an American citizen. It’s made clear – again – that he was born in the United States but the reality (and problem) is that for “some,” he doesn’t fit into their framework, understanding, and history of what constitutes American – or perhaps, “fully American.”
I am a United States citizen and I can produce my document to prove it to doubters. But as a person of color, a “Korean-American”, and someone that defies the perception of “normative” to some (aka: Oriental), I understand the sense of being perceived as not “fully American.”
“No…no…where are you really from?”
The question above – in essence – captures the crux of the “birthers” demand for proof of his birth documents. In the end, people of color have to work harder to “prove” our worthiness of being fully American. I loved how Dr. Sherrilyn Ifill (professor at University of Maryland School of Law) put it via CNN:
This ongoing challenge to our legitimacy is the reason that so many blacks from earlier generations were told by our parents that we had to be smarter, more well-mannered, more well-spoken and more circumspect than our white counterparts. We had to prove ourselves worthy of the respect of whites, and to do so required proof that we “belonged.” It’s among the great ironies of race in this country that when black leaders display these same qualities, they are accused of “elitism,” no matter how humble their origins.
Now, even the first black president has been compelled to present proof that he “belongs” in the White House. No Harvard degree, no Nobel Prize — not even the support of a majority of voters in this vast country is enough. More will always be required.
I am neither Republican or Democrat. I neither adhere to the Tea or Coffee Party. There are things I agree and disagree about the implementations and policies of the current administration. But let’s not make a mockery of our democratic process.
Barack Obama is the President of the United States. He is my President and your President. President Barack Obama is our legitimate President and to even insert the adjective of “legitimate” before President is ridiculous.
In no way am I suggesting that we shouldn’t ask questions or question our governments. We absolutely should…this is the broken beauty of our country’s broken democracy. But let’s ask the more substantive questions:
The questions about jobs, the poor, health care, businesses, accountability (for the government, Wall Streets, corporations gone wild), why the Sonics were robbed from Seattle, our foreign policy, the ongoing wars, the education system, and the list goes on.
The reality is that America has and continues to change. And speaking of that framework…
Umm, it’s time to reframe that framework. Ready or not.