Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Well, America has finally -- on President Obama's watch -- tracked down Osama bin Laden, who was hiding in plain sight, and killed him -- allegedly unarmed -- in his compound.

After 10 years, $1,291-plus trillion spent*, and more than 12,2712 American military casualties** (deaths and those wounded in action; this does not include Iraqi, Afghan and Pakistani casualties), President Obama finally did what George Bush so wanted to do but couldn't: kill Osama bin Laden and avenge the 9/11 attack in American soil.

And after a week of media orgy covering every unclassified aspect of the raid and as I watched repeated images of young -- and mostly white -- Americans literally dancing in the streets celebrating Osama Bin Laden's death, one question kept running through my mind: I wonder if white America will FINALLY give Obama his "freedom papers" and concede once and for all that he is American and Christian and -- that Holy Grail word when white America is talking about anyone who is not white, but most especially African Americans -- Qualified.

From the Tea Party to professional self-promoter Donald Trump, President Obama's politics (including the characterization of his healthcare policy as "reparations" to Black America) and person (seriously, do I really need to give examples?), have been racialized and put under unrelenting assault to prove to white America that his perceived "otherness" will not betray their interests.

So we have had the 3 year campaign for President Obama to release the long-form of his birth certificate. And immediately after its release, we've seen a grassroots campaign mobilizing around proving it’s a forgery.

Now we have Donald Trump clamoring for the release of President Obama's school transcripts, stating:

"I heard he was a terrible student, terrible. How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard? I'm thinking about it, I'm certainly looking into it. Let him show his records."

In this Associated Press interview, he went on to say "I have friends who have smart sons with great marks, great boards, great everything and they can't get into Harvard. We don't know a thing about this guy. There are a lot of questions that are unanswered about our president."

And -- just so we understand that Trump speaks for more than just a small, marginalized segment of society -- his questions about Obama's legitimacy as a United States citizen and as someone who is "qualified" to be president shot him to the top of the polls as a Republican presidential candidate contender. Not only that, his allegations have been treated as serious news by "mainstream" media (which is to say, media where the news "lens" of newscasters, their "experts", and their audiences are not generally inclusive of the world views and experiences of people of color).

USA history, in relation to its African American population, has example after example of the very clear message that generations of African Americans have received: that there is nothing people of color can do to instill white America’s confidence in and respect for their merit accomplishments. And in this instance yet another generation is having reinforced the old adage that African Americans have to be "twice as good to get half as much" played out through the example of President Obama.

We are seeing that even graduating magna cum laude and as president of the prestigious Harvard Law Review -– noteworthy accomplishments by any measure but extraordinary accomplishments considering the school's history, culture and climate -- does not insulate people of color from having to prove that they are merit worthy. It reaffirms that no matter how accomplished, no matter how smart, no matter how many credentials they have, they are somehow “less than”, in terms of their intellectual capacity, and that their accomplishments can be challenged and called out at any time. It reaffirms the historical racial and power dynamics of this country.

Unless "Trumpers", Tea Partiers, or other naysayers have proof in their back pockets that President Obama’s accomplishments were somehow rigged -- and unless they are willing to go on record accusing Columbia and Harvard of collaborating and colluding with Barack Obama in false academic achievement -- THEIR motives and biases should be scrutinized and THEY should be called to explain their racialized rumor-mongering. THAT should be the "serious news story" to which the mainstream press gives credence. America has an opportunity here to say that long-gone are the days when any and every white person can call into question a person of color's achievements -- or citizenship, for that matter -- based on a feeling or whim and have it taken seriously. They have an opportunity to pull the white sheets off the heads of those who would put the burden of proof on a person of color to disprove such ramblings.

Let me put this another way: if President Obama -- with his centrist, colorblind universalist philosophy, record of achievement at Ivy League schools, and direct connection to "whiteness" -- has to show his "papers", what hope can the rest of us have in a country where the "wrong" skin color seems to trump honest merit every single time?

And so here we are. Bin Laden has fallen and America is in a "feel good" moment, on Obama's watch.

Let's see how many of those who count themselves as Americans are willing to concede that President Obama is too. Let's see how many of them will speak out, demand a stop to this newest round of madness, and give President Obama his "freedom papers" of citizenship, religion, and merit qualifications for holding the office of president.

Moving Forward,


* Congressional Research Service, "The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11". Belasco, Amy, 3.29.11 (Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress).

** US Department of Defense, Statistical Information Analysis Division,

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