Baratunde Thurston on Obama birther controversy: “We have all been debased”

As Lori mentioned yesterday, President Obama has released his long-form birth certificate in an attempt to lay to rest the ridiculous (racist, ignorant, bigoted, baseless) birther claims once and for all. (Donald Trump, we’re still waiting on yours.)

It’s pretty clear that this won’t shut up the true believers who never cared about things like, um, facts to begin with. But, god willing, it will squelch some of the media circus that irresponsibly validated those views. (I’m not holding my breath on Fox News though.)

I’m personally pretty conflicted about whether or not this was a good political move by the President.

Elle at Shakesville argues that this sets a terrible precedent and legitimizes bigotry:

“In releasing that birth certificate, President Obama not only validated current problematic (understatement!) immigration policies, he conceded to the historical demand for people of color to “prove” their citizenship and that they deserve access to political and civil rights.”

On the other hand, Amanda Marcotte counters that ignoring the lies of right-wing extremists rarely works:

“We’ve tried the “ignore the liars and they’ll go away” thing and it’s failed. Time and time again, people on the left try to ignore some right wing nuttery in hopes that it just disappears from lack of oxygen, and it sneaks up to bite us in the ass. … Acting like we’re too good to even acknowledge people screeching about death panels and conspiracy theories involving John Kerry’s war wounds has proven a failed strategy.”

I can see both perspectives. But one thing is absolutely clear: This incident says something very real and very sad about the current political moment. When a jackass like Donald Trump claims credit for forcing the President of the United States to prove that he is an American, we should all be ashamed of our democracy. And no one gave a more poignant voice to that pain and rage than Baratunde Thurston. Watch it and weep. And then, can we once and for all kill the myth that we live in a “post-racial” society?

Transcript after the jump [Via Feministe via Numol Bites through dopegirlfresh]


it’s been a very difficult morning for me. um, got the news that President Obama released his long-form birth certificate, um, due to the increasing media circus surrounding claims that he is not one of us, that he is not an American. and it comes at an interesting time for many reasons — one of which is that it’s April 27th, 2011, and *this just happened*, so that’s… really interesting, to me. also, because i’m reading, right now, a book by Manning Marable — it’s called “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention”, and he unearths a lot of amazing detail and correspondence around this exceptional American, and through this book, you also get a window into the Civil Rights Movement throughout this country’s history, especially in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s. and you are reminded, if you read this book — or see a documentary special, or know anything about the history of the United States — you’re reminded of the extraordinary level of sacrifice that has been involved in allowing all Americans to exist as, be treated as, participate as *Americans*, to *be that which they are* [laughs, shakes head]. a *lot* of *work*, a lot of tears, a lot of pain, a lot of death. there were people who dropped out of their ordinary lives — sacrificed their personal safety, their reputation, their ability to earn money — to intervene on behalf of those who they also saw as American. they got on buses in Freedom Rides, they sat in, they *died* in waves and waves of domestic terrorism, so that someone like me could go to a voting booth and not be asked by some racist poll worker to pay a tax, or prove that my grandfather wasn’t a slave, or pass a literacy test which got increasingly difficult the more i might pass it. [pause] and today, the *President of the United States* had to prove that he was an American to the satisfaction of the 75% of Iowa republicans who doubt that, or the 43% of national republicans who doubt that, or the one *heinous, low-class individual* who took credit for it after: Donald Trump. a man who was given every advantage, who inherited millions and lost it all twice, but *had that opportunity* because no one’s ever had to ask him to prove *anything*. a man who lacks intelligence, compassion, common sense, respect, decency, or an understanding of what the *fuck* it means to be an American, that he would come out moments after *the President of the United States* — and i stress that, *the President* — released his long-form birth certificate, and Donald Trump comes out moments later and says, “i’m really proud of myself, *but*… shouldn’t have taken so long. i wanna see the birth certificate for myself. i wanna test it for *authenticity*. i don’t want the press asking me about birth certificates anymore.” [pause] i find it hard to… summarize, in mere words, the amount of pain and rage this incident has caused. it’s… *humiliating* — not just to Barack Obama, not just to the office of the President, not just to black Americans who died and those who supported our quest for freedom… it’s embarassing to the *entire nation*, that we would sit and *let this happen*. [shaking his head] we have *all* been debased by this incident — by a charlatan, by a con man, by a mere *promoter of himself*. and for him to take credit for this, and for him to *revel in it*, and yet… and still not be satisfied, makes him no better than a klansman, no better than a Bull Connor, no better than an anonymous privileged white man in the 1950s who — regardless of his position in society — knew his position was higher than that of a common nigger. and that is what the fuck Donald Trump has done… to the *President of the United States*. to the *office* of the President of the United States. to me, and to you. i am *disgusted*, i have cried, because i know my ancestors paid a very high price, and never… would never have imagined that we might have the President that we do. but certainly part of their joy, in the ancestral celestial skies right now, has been greatly diminished by what has happened here today. i hope that eventually — not just in the post-mortal world of karma and spiritual justice — Mr. Trump pays an exceptional price. i hope that price comes during his life. [pause] to then be able to walk around a super-free, super-white, super-privileged man, lording over all who would pay attention — which is far too many — at what you have done… has got to cost you something in this life as well. [shaking his head and laughing] i don’t wanna hear about “The Apprentice”, i don’t wanna hear about your new cologne, i don’t wanna hear about the new tower you’re building in whatever fucking town. [pauses, shaking his head] that cologne smells of racism, that tower is built on the blood of disrespected slaves and freedom fighters, and that show is merely a showcase… for the dishonor you have brought upon anyone who would call themselves an American. [pause] my name is Baratunde Thurston and… i’m *heartbroken* over this. [shakes his head and rests his face on his hand as video ends]

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like,, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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