Tuesday, July 28, 2009

July 28: The Other Race Issue: "Birthers"

By Sylvia Gurinsky

President Barack Obama's election and inauguration last January didn't put an end to racism.

Americans got an overt look last week with the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates and Obama's reaction to that arrest at his press conference last Wednesday. One's own experiences do influence one's own responses. Obama wrote in his first book, "Dreams From My Father," about his experiences with "DWB," otherwise known as "Driving While Black."

But there's a more subtle form of racism - racism disguised as something else - like alleged concern over where Obama was born.

So-called "birthers" are people who have been questioning whether Obama is a natural born citizen of the United States.

He is. Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii Aug. 4, 1961. He does have a birth certificate, and there were notices in both Honolulu newspapers a couple of days after his birth.

His father was born in Kenya, making Obama the seventh American president to have a parent born outside the country. (The others were Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, James Buchanan, Chester Arthur, Woodrow Wilson and Herbert Hoover.)

The facts don't stop many of the "birthers," who supposedly want to see the actual birth certificate, not a copy.

It's possible that some people really are questioning his citizenship. If that is the case, one would hope that if Sen. John McCain, who was born in the Panama Canal Zone, had been elected president, they would have asked the same questions.

But many of the people questioning Obama's birthplace have been coming up with ridiculous claims. And they most likely have another, poisonous agenda.

What they really want is no black president, no president with a heritage that goes back to Africa or a history that includes several years in Indonesia.

What those people are, really, are racists and xenophobes.

Unfortunately, a beer in the White House can't solve that problem, or be an antidote to that poison. But an enlightened reaction among members of the press and Congress can. They need to nip the "birther" campaign in the bud by calling it what it is - hatred.

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