Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Birther Movement Offers Valuable Lesson in Civil Rights

President Obama's Official Birth Certificate
I'm beginning to celebrate the irrational vitality of the birther movement.  For, it is only now, even after President Obama released his certificate of live birth, that average, everyday  Americans are getting a fair glimpse of what racism truly looks and feels like.

 A black man sits in the White House today because mainstream American society did eventually come to embrace the civil rights movement and the higher moral principles that Dr. Martin Luther King stood for.  While Americans as a whole developed sympathy for those who claimed to be victims of bigotry, the very notion of "racism," remained for many an inexplicably odd,  albeit distasteful phenomenon. 

It was difficult not to think that racism's so-called victims might even be overdramatizing their plight.  White Americans' understanding of this moral defect was intellectual.  A racist was seen as a person who used the "N" word in private.   The nation as a whole lacked the intimate exposure to racism that would allow people to smell its tell-tale stench as it wafts past their nostrils.    

However, the birther movement is changing all that.  It is turning its campaign to de-legitimize the nation's first African-American president, into one of the most teachable moments in the history of race relations.   When faced with irrefutable facts disproving a particular racist premise, the birthers simply change course.  Their rock-solid assumptions about the racial inferiority of blacks is what never changes.   Now one of the group's main websites is pushing new birther claims that "forgery or not, now we can debate the true meaning of a natural born citizen."  Others are insisting that President Obama must release to the public his high school and college transcripts.   Of course these people are not rational.  Welcome to the cognitively-splintered world of the racist.

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