Show me your passbook

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JulianneMalveauxBox

(NNPA)—I am glad that President Barack Obama has a sense of humor about the birthers. I don’t, and I am disgusted that Donald Trump, lacking in both sense and scruples, was able to push the president to releasing his “long form” birth certificate. Now that the birth certificate has been released, perhaps, we can get back to some of the business of government, except for the fact that those who want to embrace their racism and believe that President Obama was not born here, did not star at Harvard (despite his position on the competitive Law Review), and did not “deserve” his election (which did not depend on hanging chads”), will continue to promulgate their nonsense.

Meanwhile, President Obama was maneuvered into analogously showing his passbook, the very same passbook that Black South Africans had to show before the end of apartheid to prove their citizenship. They could be forced to show the passbook at any time, by any White person who questioned their right to be somewhere. While I never quite saw Mr. Trump as one of the arrogant Afrikaners who perpetrated the apartheid system, his use of birther logic was similar to the logic that White South Africans used to maintain their supremacy.

The birther demands remind me of the grandfather clauses of the post-Civil War era, when people of African descent were only allowed to vote if their grandfathers could. Since most of our grandfathers were enslaved and lacked birth certificates, the grandfather clauses were an effective way to limit, if not completely exclude, the Black vote. The Trump cry to “show me your birth certificate” is reminiscent of the grandfather clauses that impeded equal rights.

The birthers who wanted to see President Obama’s passbook are not only challenging his legitimacy, but the legitimacy of many of African descent who live in these United States and have achieved positions of power and influence. In their minds, African-Americans are not “real” Americans, those who have immigrated here are not “real” Americans, and (gasp!) those of different religions are not “real” Americans. Thanks, President Obama, for skewering them with humor and with a bit of an edge. Masterful, to suggest that Congresswoman Michelle Bachman is Canadian. But, Canadians are White, and they’d never be asked, as Latinos often are in Arizona, to show their passbooks. They can pass.

If the birthers want to see the passports of those who have come to this country from the African continent, they might try looking at the footprints of our nation’s capital, the same capital that enslaved people built, the capital from which they spew their distortions. If birthers want to see passports, they might want to go to the Underground Railroad Museum to look at the chains slaveholders used to contain others. In showing the chains, we show the passports.

These birthers have a lot of nerve. They attack immigration, but they, too, are the descendants of immigrants. Just because they rode on the top of the boat (not in the hold, as cargo), does not mean they can claim superiority to those who have become immigrants just because they changed borders (remember, Texas and Arizona used to be Mexico). In demanding that President Obama show his birth certificate/his passbook, they are challenging the roots of our nation’s already flawed immigrant history.

President Obama is a better American than I am. He put Trump and his birthers in their place with an incisive and biting humor while I have been hammering them with a silent rage. That Mr. Trump could not manage to crack a smile speaks volumes for his nature, and that he would take credit for pushing the President into releasing his birth certificate shouts out his shallowness.

Now, that passbooks have been shown, it is time to get back to the salt mines. Debt ceiling, anyone? Budget cuts? Back in the day Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Today, candidate Trump talks trash and incites invective while the real issues around the future of our nation are neglected. Now that the long form birth certificate has trumped Trump, are there legislators who will deal with education, employment, health care, and human services?

(Julianne Malveaux is president of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C. Her most recent book is “Surviving and Thriving: 365 Days in Black Economic History” http://www.lastwordprod.com.)

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