10 Ways That the Birthers Are an Object Lesson in White Privilege
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May you live in interesting times. What a timeless and wonderful curse that so perfectly describes politics in the Age of Obama.
With the election of America's first black president we collectively witnessed the ascendancy of a person whose life story embodies the American dream. Obama was not alone in the grand play that is American life. There were other players who competed for the spotlight.
During this same moment America witnessed the rise of Sarah Palin to fame and glory, a woman who rides White populism and racial resentment in much the same way that a witch rides a broom. As a second addition to the Tea Party GOP's Rogues Gallery there is a carnival barker named Donald Trump, a man who once lurked stage left but is now the GOP front runner as he perfectly embodies PT Barnum's famous observation that " there is a sucker born every minute," while shilling for the worst and most ugly nativist and xenophobic impulses of the White Conservative Soul.
Ultimately, the election of Barack Obama has provided a series of object lessons in the durability of the colorline in American life. Most pointedly, Obama's tenure has provided an opportunity for the worst aspects of White privilege to rear their ugly head. In doing so, the continuing significance of Whiteness is made ever more clear in a moment when the old bugaboo of White racism was thought to have been slain on November 4, 2008.
To point: Imagine if Sarah Palin, a person who wallows in mediocrity and wears failure as a virtue, were any race other than White. Would a black (or Latino or Asian or Hispanic) woman with Palin's credentials have gotten a tenth as far? Let's entertain another counter-factual: If the Tea Party and their supporters were a group of black or brown folk, who showed up with guns at events attended by the President, threatening nullification and secession, and engaging in treasonous talk, how many seconds would pass before they were locked up and taken out by the F.B.I. as threats to the security of the State? If the Tea Party were black they would have been disappeared to Gitmo or some other secret site faster than you can say Fox News.
Earlier this week President Obama tried to be the adult in the room by surrendering his birth certificate in an effort to satisfy the Birthers and their cabal leaders Donald Trump and Pat Buchanan. Of course, his generous act does nothing to satisfy the Birther beast for it is insatiable in its madness. Nevertheless, a lesson can still be salvaged by exploring the rank bigotry which drives the Birther movement. In an era of racism without racists, the Tea Party GOP Birther brigands provide one more lesson in the permanence of the social evil known as White privilege.
Scholars and activists have described Whiteness as a type of property, unearned privilege, normality, and invisibility. Donald Trump and the Birthers exhibit a surplus of all of these traits...and more.
Ten Ways That the Birthers Are an Object Lesson in White Privilege
1. Just as Pat Buchanan did with Justice Sotomayor, the Birthers have sullied President Obama as being an unqualified, " affirmative action" candidate. His academic and professional accomplishments are irrelevant. The fact that he won an open and honest election are unimportant. We should know at this point that the life successes of people of color (and to a lesser degree some women) are always questionable and suspect when viewed through the gaze of Whiteness (and sexism). White men are never burdened with the question or doubt of being qualified for any job, at any time, or any place. Their greatness and ability is a fact not a question, never is it to be interrogated. This self-delusion exists despite the fact that white men have historically been the greatest beneficiaries of unearned privilege in the history of the United States. Their mediocrity has been rewarded at every turn.