on wednesday morning, i got to work and engaged in my usual arrival-at-work routine: i turned on my computer, opened my work schedule and email, and launched firefox. my homepage is set to the new york times, and when i saw the pale green birth certificate taking up the right side of my screen, i had a few different reactions at once.
the first was optimistic: i felt some relief and hope. maybe this would put an end to the whole ridiculous debate and, as obama said, allow us to finally focus our attention on the multitude of real issues, nationally and internationally, that we’re currently facing. and i can’t lie, there was also some gloating, in-your-face sentiment mixed in there too. you claimed he wasn’t born here? take this, fools.
my second reaction was bleaker: i felt anger, sadness, frustration that this is what it had to come down to. i realized that i was witnessing the mother of all microaggressions — actually, it wasn’t even at the level of microaggression. it was straight up aggression, overt discrimination, akin to the recent immigration law signed by arizona governor jan brewer.
because if everything else were the same and our current president were white, would we be having this conversation? even if his father were from a different country? no, we most likely would not. this isn’t pure speculation, either, because this has not been an issue with any of the 43 presidents we’ve had previously, all of whom have been white. in spite of the birthers’ claims that this is about upholding the constitution, this really about something much darker; it’s about suspicion and fear of the other, masked under the much more palatable claim of wanting to adhere to the constitution.
let’s do a thought experiment for a moment: what if i ran for president? forgetting for a moment that i have a uterus, which would be enough to disqualify me in the minds of many. if i ran for president — me, with my mongoloid features — it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to conjure what the birthers might say: that i was a chinese spy, sent to secure state secrets; that i was sent by china to gain power in the american government to facilitate china’s planned takeover and world domination; and on and on. never mind that my parents are from taiwan, not china, and i was born in kalamazoo, michigan, which is as heartland as it gets. i’m willing to wager that the birthers would capitalize on my phenotype and our country’s increasing anti-china sentiment (clearly on display in last year’s campaign ads) and paint me as an outsider to be feared, not trusted.
this discussion makes me sad, angry, frustrated because i keep thinking that we’re above this kind of blatant racism, but apparently we aren’t. and when my brother runs for senate in 25 years, this may be a significant obstacle for him. hope you have the birth certificate ready, kiddo. (which, for the record, lists “detroit, michigan” as his city of birth.)
but on a lighter note, president obama seems to have a sense of humor about the whole situation (what choice does he have, really?), which was evident at last night’s white house correspondents’ dinner. he was great, and then seth meyers, who hosted the dinner, just killed it. just. killed. it. i highly recommend watching both clips.