Last week, Barack Obama publicly released his full birth certificate to the press, hoping to finally put to bed the rumors posited by “birthers” that he was not born in the United States.
This debate has bothered, even angered, us deeply. It reveals a disappointingly narrow-minded way of thinking and, in our opinion, veiled racism. To us, one’s birthplace is really just that — a geographic location, and one of many that one will live in throughout life. True allegiance and love for a country is so much more sophisticated and complicated than a birth certificate.
Like many of Denizen’s readers, Obama grew up between worlds. As a half-black, half-white child in Indonesia, he struggled with issues of identity and race at a young age. These conflicts and experiences teach a person the ability to bridge between cultures and understand multiple perspectives. We do not live in an one-culture world, and neither should our political leaders who must make decisions that have a global impact. Having a multicultural president should be a point of pride, not of controversy.
In today’s globalized society, it’s increasingly common for a person to grow up in a country different than his or her birthplace. Here at Denizen, we have contributors born in the United States but raised in Iran, or born in England, but raised in Singapore. Using a person’s birthplace to define citizenship, or a person’s place in society, is frustratingly archaic. It reinforces a flawed notion that people can be placed within pre-defined boxes, and that one’s patriotism can be determined by one’s birthplace.
The “birthers” movement was born not out of respect for the U.S. Constitution, but from petty politics, xenophobia and racism. We wonder in the 2008 presidential race why it was Obama’s birthplace that raised a fuss while Republican nominee John McCain was born in Panama. Or why John Kerry’s childhood years spent in France is hardly an issue while Obama’s years in Indonesia is a problem. According to a recent CBS/New York Times poll, one in four Americans believe Obama was not born in the U.S., even after three years of presidency, a short form birth certificate, newspaper birth announcements and signed affidavits.
This controversy, founded upon a pathetic lie and fear mongering, has received enough attention. It is time to realize that we live in a world where identity and citizenship can no longer be defined in black and white, but instead runs a broad and complicated spectrum. Let’s keep marching toward a world where multiculturalism is not a cause for concern, but instead embraced, even celebrated.