Ifill on the Birth Certificate Discussion

My colleague and our guest blogger Sherrilyn Ifill has an important editorial at CNN entitled It’s Not About His Birth, It’s About His Race.  See here.

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19 Responses

  1. anon says:

    Today, Survey USA released a poll showing 23% of whites and 23% of blacks think Obama was not born in America. Still a racist claim?


  2. Thanks for this. I agree: This is more or less what Professor Benjamin Davis said in a recent comment thread at Opinio Juris: http://opiniojuris.org/2011/04/27/birthers-next-line-of-retreat-obama-was-a-dual-citizen/#comments

  3. Kate Willy says:

    Now that this whole birther debate has be settled, can we get back to important issues now? Like which french fry is king: http://lawblog.legalmatch.com/2011/04/25/wendys-battles-for-french-fry-crown-may-only-get-false-advertising-lawsuit/

  4. A.J. Sutter says:

    anon, a large proportion (35%) of black respondents either said they were not following the news stories about the birth certificate or weren’t sure if they were following it. A significantly smaller proportion of black respondents (23%, plus 2% not sure) said that he probably or definitely wasn’t born in the US. Only 49% of black respondents reported that they had seen the newly-released certificate. (Moreover, only 17% of all respondents who had seen the birth certificate still thought it was doubtful that he was native-born; + 1% not sure.) It is certainly possible that virtually all of those black respondents who doubted he was born in the US had not been following the story and/or had not seen the certificate.

  5. Brett Bellmore says:

    AJ, and 34% of white respondents said exactly the same. So “it’s certainly possible that virtually all of those white respondents who doubted he was born in the US had not been following the story and/or had not seen the certificate.”

    Meanwhile, looking at chart 3, while 42% of whites have seen the birth certificate, 48% of blacks have seen it. And if you go down to chart 4, you’ll notice that, among those who HAVE seen the birth certificate, 28% of whites either doubt it’s authenticity, or are sure it’s a forgery. While 30% of blacks either doubt it’s authenticity, or are sure it’s a forgery.

    That’s the problem with this, “Doubt about Obama is due to racism” narrative. Sure, you can find occasional, anecdotal evidence for that theory, or any other explanation, but the hard statistics don’t support it. Really, the only reason for accepting it is that it fits the Democratic party’s long established story line that Republicans are a pack of racist bigots. And that’s not really a good reason to believe anything.

  6. Shag from Brookline says:

    Perhaps Brett can detail what exactly is the “doubt about Obama” if it isn’t racism? Hard statistics? Consider the Civil War and its Amendments, post-Reconstruction, Plessy, Brown v. Bd. of Education, 1960s civil rights legislation, to the election of the first African American President in 2008, and the reaction in just over two (2) years of Obama’s term, a running period of about 150 years. We don’t need no stinkin’ hard statistics, Brett. Perhaps Brett should watch “Watermelon Man” to understand that the anecdotal evidence is overwhelming. And read Charles Blow in today’s NYTimes and Colby King in today’s WaPo. If it isn’t racism, then it is pure ignorance.

  7. Ken Rhodes says:

    I think y’all are barking up the wrong tree.

    “Doubt about O’Bama” isn’t racism, it’s gullibility. All those percentages aren’t about “birthers,” they’re about the gullible folks who swallow any story because it’s repeated often enough, or because “it’s on the Internet, y’know.”

    The racists and political demagogues (who might be racists, but frequently not) are the ones who need debunking. Donald Trump is likely not a racist. But continual shouting B.S. from the housetops will inevitably find a percentage of the population starting to think it’s news, instead of B.S.

  8. Brett Bellmore says:

    Yup, it’s gullibility. But the Shags of the world desperately want the people who disagree with them to be evil, not merely mistaken. It’s a form of self-validation: If people who disagree with you are evil and/or stupid, then you, by implication, are good and/or intelligent. Whereas if people who disagree with you might be good, or intelligent, not only is your own status not guaranteed, it’s possible that YOU, not they, might be right on this or that topic.

    And so, the evil motive, such as racism in this case, is a starting premise, not a conclusion. And not subject to revision on the basis of evidence, such as the poll anon linked to, demonstrating virtually identical results on the subject for blacks and whites. Instead, we have to invent completely different explanations for why blacks and whites arrive at the same opinion.

  9. Shag from Brookline says:

    So Brett believes that polls, such as the one he refers to, constitute “hard statistics.” What about the “hard history” of slavery followed by the Civil War and other events I listed earlier? Brett might take a look in the mirror and picture Godfrey Cambridge’s horror in “Watermelon Man.” Keep in mind that in the slave south, there were very few slaveowners, most of the whites being quite poor (but better off than the slaves, but not by much). Jim Crow worked after the Civil War to the near present because of the “gullibility” of these poor whites in believing that the ex-slaves who be taking away from them what little they had.

    I don’t believe that Brett could be that gullible or that ignorant. Yet Brett fails to answer what exactly is the “doubt about Obama [not Ken’s presumably inadvertent “O’Bama” reference]” if it isn’t racism. Gullibility is not an answer since it means “easily cheated or tricked, credulous.” Who’s doing the cheating or tricking that results in these birthers to be easily convinced of exactly what about Obama? No, Brett’s not that gullible or that ignorant; he’s an enabler, wittingly or otherwise.

  10. Brett Bellmore says:

    “Keep in mind that in the slave south, there were very few slaveowners”

    Keep in mind that the slave south was over 140 years ago. Perhaps you should try not living quite so far in the past?

  11. Shag from Brookline says:

    Brett, as is his custom, ignores the history since the end of slavery, unless in his mind a perfect union resulted when the Civil War ended and America lived happily ever after. Get real, Brett. Perhaps I was wrong in believing that you were not that gullible or that ignorant. I live in the present that continues to be impacted by the past, as we all do. Look at how long it took for Brown v. Bd. of Education (1954) and then the 1960s civil rights/voting acts and the Republicans Southern Strategy starting with Nixon. And after 8 years of Bush/Cheney, an African American is elected President and the yahoos forgot the catastrophe of Bush/Cheney to immediately jump on Obama, a little over 2 years ago for just about everything he did or tried to do.

  12. A.J. Sutter says:

    The discussion is too reductionist. Different groups might have different motivations. And while suckers might be born every minute, they usually don’t hatch the scams they fall for.

    John McWhorter of The New Republic suggests that those who object to Obama’s “left-leaning policies” (sic; as if!) and who are frustrated that he’s “kept his nose clean” (unlike Clinton, who seemed to have some scandals) are the keeping the birther controversy alive; Glenn Loury of Brown U. says racism is at least a component. My guess is that neither of these applies to the majority of the credulous black poll respondents. I do think Shag makes a good point about the historical roots of racism in the US — though I would broaden this to xenophobia. That’s certainly very much in the present, with anything that hints of Islam, like the President’s name. (Whether you want to distinguish this from racism is an angels/pin problem, IMHO, when it comes to practical application.) The most plausible explanation to me is that birtherism was started by right-wing political opponents, who knew that they could fan the flames of xenophobia to make it a lasting meme. Many ignorant and credulous people, and not a few bigoted ones, of all colors, got sucked in.

  13. Brett Bellmore says:

    “Look at how long it took for Brown v. Bd. of Education (1954) and then the 1960s civil rights/voting acts”

    Fifty seven, and fifty one years ago, respectively. You’re still living in the past. I, by contrast, am living in the deep south. Where my next door neighbors are an inter-racial couple, something I seldom saw back in Michigan.

  14. Shag from Brookline says:

    And Brett’s next comment can be expected to include “Some of my best friends are black.”

    Let me quote from Charles Blow’s column in yesterday’s NYTImes:

    “In 1965, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr described how the strategy of separating people with common financial interests by agitating their racial differences was used against the populist movement at the turn of the century, explaining that ‘the Southern aristocracy took the world and gave the poor white man Jim Crow.’

    “He contended that Jim Crow was ‘a psychological bird that told him that no matter how bad off he was, at least he was a white man, better than the black man.’ He called this ‘their last outpost of psychological oblivion.'”

    Jim Crow has not disappeared.

    By the way, an inter-racial couple need not include an African American. Maybe when Brett was in Michigan it was far from Detroit and its environs.

    Charles Blow also referenced South Carolina State Senator Jake Knotts, who disparaged Obama with a slur last year. “When pressed to resign, he refused, proclaiming that: ‘If all of us rednecks leave the Republican Party, the party would have one hell of a void.’ Do tell.”

    And that brings us back to Donald T-Rump.

  15. Brett Bellmore says:

    “Some of my best friends are black”

    You know, I just love the way that preemptively disqualifies any evidence against the accusation of being a racist. Indeed, some of my best friends have been black, but that’s not the point I was making. The point was, I live here in the south, and the area is simply lousy with inter-racial couples, with no evidence that they’re being discriminated against. Indeed, my own wife is a filipino, and do we catch any grief about it? No, we do not.

    You keep going on and on about events half a century or more ago. It’s like you’re simply oblivious to the fact that things can change.

  16. Shag from Brookline says:

    Brett really has a way with words;

    ” … and the area is simply lousy with inter-racial couples, ….”

    I wonder if they share Brett’s views. And I wonder if Brett praises the late Martin Luther King Jr.’s efforts (for which he gave his life to an assassin’s bullet) and that of the Supreme Court over the time of the last half century in improving the climate for inter-racial couples, including Brett’s (assuming that he is white). (While we may have a “more perfect Union” than in the past, it is far from perfect at present.) But I rather doubt that Brett speaks for inter-racial couples regarding grief that they may “catch.” Like Rodney King, it would be really, really great if we could all just get along.

  17. Ken Rhodes says:

    Shag, you really underrate me.

    “Ken’s presumably inadvertent “O’Bama” reference.” Inadvertent??? Good grief, man, do you not know the truth about our President?

    He’s Irish. He changed the spelling of his name so that it wouldn’t appear the election was between two Irishmen. His handlers were afraid the rednecks would think “Heck, if we gotta choose between two Micks, might as well go for the white one.”

    …Now back to our regularly scheduled sniping.

  18. Shag from Brookline says:

    Let me pass this on to Shaq [not Shag] O’Neal of the Boston Celtics. Maybe they’re related We know that O’Bama can stand the Heat (game starts 3:30 PM), but we’re not sure about Shaq [not Shag). Regarding my assumption, Ken, “no harm, no foul.” So take your shots – or dribble away.

    (By the way, I’m taking the Heat.)