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Romney's joke put a spotlight on 'white privilege'

Why Birtherism Is No Laughing Matter

Whether or not he intended it to, Romney's "joke" put a spotlight on his white privilege.


 
Why Birtherism Is No Laughing Matter
Getty Images

(The Root) -- Poor Mitt Romney has lost his way. On the road to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., he appears to have taken a detour into the swampland of Birtherism.

Last Friday, during a campaign rally in his home state of Michigan, Romney said, "I love being home, in this place where Ann and I were raised, where both of us were born. Ann was born at Henry Ford Hospital. I was born at Harper Hospital. No one's ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that is the place we were born."

The largely white crowd laughed and cheered.

This was yet the latest example of Romney appeasing the modern Republican Party's wing-nut faction, which continues to promote the lie that President Barack Obama wasn't born here. Though the GOP candidate and his campaign spokesmen have dismissed all criticism of his comments by saying that they were simply a "joke," it is very clear that Romney seeks to curry favor with the Republican base, 50 percent of whom question Obama's nationality. Romney's proud endorsement from famed Birther Donald Trump -- who was scheduled to speak at the RNC before tropical storm Isaac caused a change of plans -- and Arizona's Sheriff Joe Arpaio's spot on the RNC lineup are a testament that Romney is comfortable associating with those who espouse vitriolic Birther rhetoric and seek to undermine President Obama's legitimacy.


So is Romney a Birther? That isn't clear; nor does it matter. What matters is that many Republicans remain suspicious of Romney's candidacy, his Mormon faith and his credentials as a diehard conservative. Years of flip-flopping and constant reinvention have given Romney a reputation for being disingenuous at best and a fraud at worst. And that's among fellow Republicans. He needs to convince the GOP base he's one of them -- and this means employing dog whistles that are easily understood but plausibly denied.



Of course, in Romney's little world, making jokes like this is funny in the same way that making $10,000 bets is completely normal. But these supposed gaffes reveal less about his political strategy and more about Romney's background and character. You see, he's actually correct: No one is requesting to see Romney's birth certificate. And therein lies the best evidence that questions about Obama's nationality are fed by racism, rooted in white supremacist ideology.

Mitt Romney enjoys an inherent privilege of whiteness. In fact, since the nation's foundation -- and up until the recent past -- only white males were granted the full democratic freedoms expressed in the Declaration of Independence. Whiteness, in and of itself, has been a de facto synonym of Americanness -- or at least the rights thereof.

The desire by some Republicans to deny Obama his birthright -- refusing to afford him the respect of the office he now holds -- is rooted in the dark annals of African-American history. This is a story that began with chains and suffered a three-fifths compromise. The concept that blacks were not fully American was written into the Constitution. Any allusion that seeks to blight the president, using metaphors that reflect the remnants of that insidious past, is nothing to joke about. Romney's flippant approach to the blatant racism alive and well in his party reveals a white male privilege that he enjoys at the expense of others.

Adam Serwer of Mother Jones writes: "The problem with Romney's 'joke' [is that] it falls into a long list of remarks that suggest an emotional myopia based on an extremely sheltered life experience. It comes across as gloating about the fact that, as a rich white man born into a wealthy and powerful family, Romney has rarely been subject to the kind of racist or sexist assumptions that clog the daily lives of millions of Americans. Romney might as well joke that he's never been mistaken for a waiter in a restaurant or a clerk in a retail store, or that he's never been selected for extra screening at an airport or randomly told to empty his pockets by the NYPD."


America's original sin has left an indelible stain on the national consciousness that rewards whiteness a kind of pass, while casting shadows of doubt and suspicion on blackness. Romney's joke wasn't a joke at all: It is the tortured story of "separate and unequal." It's why Obama was forced to "show his papers" but Romney casually ignores calls for his tax documents.

On some level Romney can't be blamed for being the beneficiary of a privilege he did not create, but Romney is guilty of feigning ignorance while employing code words, dog whistles and engaging in dirty racial politics.

Romney is a wealthy private-equity magnate who has enjoyed a Harvard education and bank accounts in tax havens from Switzerland to the Cayman Islands. He's trying to win an election using the votes of poor, working-class white Americans -- who make up the Republican base -- some of whom remain resentful of Barack Obama's ascendency. Given that political reality, Romney can't sell himself as a man of the people because his life is so starkly more privileged and out of touch with the very voters he's courting. So instead he appeals to their prejudices and deep-seated racial anxieties.

Romney may speak in jest about matters of import and hide behind political maneuvering, but we've seen and heard it all before -- and it's no laughing matter.

How do you feel about this article and the opinions of the author?

by on Aug. 28, 2012 at 10:39 AM
Replies (21-30):
brookiecookie87
by Platinum Member on Aug. 28, 2012 at 12:15 PM
1 mom liked this

But did he produce it? Did President Obama produce his birth certificate?

If he did produce it then using that to say Romney doesn't have to produce his other tax returns does not make sense. President Obama had already provided what was required (Just like Romney has provided what is required). But unlike Romney (So far) President went above and beyond and produced his Birth Certificate for everyone to see.

I am not sure if you are ignoring why people want to see Romney's tax returns from earlier, or that you understand he has something to hide and you want to protect him from that.


Quoting Lizard_Lina:

He did refuse to produce it, for an extended period of time. Romney has provided what is required just as Obama did. Why should he have to provide above and beyond? Did we ask for baby pictures at the hospital? Birth tags? Footprints? A testimony from the doctors who delivered him? No. Just the certificate. Which is what was required. And now we got romneys tax records for the last two years, which is what was required.


Quoting brookiecookie87:

You are right it is not the same.

President Obama has already provided Proof for his case above and beyond what is required.

Romney Provided provided his Tax Returns that were from when he was already aware he would be running for President. What the people who are asking for more are trying to see is what he was doing before he was preparing to be president.

The fact that he refuses to show them shows he has something to hide.

For the situation to be the same President Obama would have had to refuse to show his Birth Certificate.


Quoting Lizard_Lina:

Even though he already provided what was required lol but its not the same in the eyes of Obama supporters.





Quoting Deezeekay:

No one has asked to see his birth certificate, but plenty are asking to see his tax returns.






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Billiebeth
by on Aug. 28, 2012 at 12:16 PM
2 moms liked this

Well, The President did provide a birth certificate.   But it was not good enough for birthers and he can't just release the long form of it (which in turn still wasn't good enough) if Hawaii law didn't allow for this.

This was a situation that he could not win for those choosing to believe he was not born here.   There could be a video of his mother giving birth on the steps of the Hawaiian capital building and there would still be those doubting he was eligible to run for President.

Quoting Lizard_Lina:

He did refuse to produce it, for an extended period of time. Romney has provided what is required just as Obama did. Why should he have to provide above and beyond? Did we ask for baby pictures at the hospital? Birth tags? Footprints? A testimony from the doctors who delivered him? No. Just the certificate. Which is what was required. And now we got romneys tax records for the last two years, which is what was required.


Quoting brookiecookie87:

You are right it is not the same.

President Obama has already provided Proof for his case above and beyond what is required.

Romney Provided provided his Tax Returns that were from when he was already aware he would be running for President. What the people who are asking for more are trying to see is what he was doing before he was preparing to be president.

The fact that he refuses to show them shows he has something to hide.

For the situation to be the same President Obama would have had to refuse to show his Birth Certificate.


Quoting Lizard_Lina:

Even though he already provided what was required lol but its not the same in the eyes of Obama supporters.





Quoting Deezeekay:

No one has asked to see his birth certificate, but plenty are asking to see his tax returns.






mikiemom
by Ruby Member on Aug. 28, 2012 at 12:21 PM

Yea, you might want to evaluate that.

Quoting mustloveanimals:

I don't see how it is racist. But yes, racist jokes are not funny.

I must have missed something, perhaps the context of his quote.

Quoting mikiemom:

Only white racist people find these types of jokes funny.

Telling racist jokes are not funny.

Quoting mustloveanimals:

I think people need to get a grip. It was a joke. I think it is funny, and I am not a "birther" or a registered republican. 



 



candlegal
by Judy on Aug. 28, 2012 at 12:22 PM

Nothing will ever be enough for them. 

Quoting Lizard_Lina:

Even though he already provided what was required lol but its not the same in the eyes of Obama supporters.


Quoting Deezeekay:

No one has asked to see his birth certificate, but plenty are asking to see his tax returns.



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Where Smart Moms Hang Out


ramita
by Member on Aug. 28, 2012 at 12:24 PM
1 mom liked this
Yea ur right obama shouldnt be questioned but the writer is wrong about making it all about race bc what about mccain he was questioned for a long time about his birth certificate even after he had shown his. I'm sure there are those out there that say it bc of race but its not only about race its also about him living else where at a young age that caused some questions about where he was born. However they should believe it by now...


Quoting stacymomof2:

I agree with this.  It's true, why wasn't he questioned?  Well it's because he's white and his name is Romney and not Obama.  There is no more evidence that Romney was born in the US than Obama, so what's the difference?  People wouldn't even think to question it, he says he was born there, people believe him.  Nothing to be suspicious of, right?  So why not the same attitude towards Obama?  He said he was born in Hawaii, why don't people believe him?  Cause he has a funny name and dark skin.  The end.


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candlegal
by Judy on Aug. 28, 2012 at 12:24 PM

and it only took Obama 3 years to do it.

Quoting brookiecookie87:

You are right it is not the same.

President Obama has already provided Proof for his case above and beyond what is required.

Romney Provided provided his Tax Returns that were from when he was already aware he would be running for President. What the people who are asking for more are trying to see is what he was doing before he was preparing to be president.

The fact that he refuses to show them shows he has something to hide.

For the situation to be the same President Obama would have had to refuse to show his Birth Certificate.

Quoting Lizard_Lina:

Even though he already provided what was required lol but its not the same in the eyes of Obama supporters.


Quoting Deezeekay:

No one has asked to see his birth certificate, but plenty are asking to see his tax returns.




Conservative Republicans     

Where Smart Moms Hang Out


candlegal
by Judy on Aug. 28, 2012 at 12:26 PM

I think it only fair that he gets 3 years like Obama did, why the rush in his case?

Quoting brookiecookie87:

But did he produce it? Did President Obama produce his birth certificate?

If he did produce it then using that to say Romney doesn't have to produce his other tax returns does not make sense. President Obama had already provided what was required (Just like Romney has provided what is required). But unlike Romney (So far) President went above and beyond and produced his Birth Certificate for everyone to see.

I am not sure if you are ignoring why people want to see Romney's tax returns from earlier, or that you understand he has something to hide and you want to protect him from that.


Quoting Lizard_Lina:

He did refuse to produce it, for an extended period of time. Romney has provided what is required just as Obama did. Why should he have to provide above and beyond? Did we ask for baby pictures at the hospital? Birth tags? Footprints? A testimony from the doctors who delivered him? No. Just the certificate. Which is what was required. And now we got romneys tax records for the last two years, which is what was required.


Quoting brookiecookie87:

You are right it is not the same.

President Obama has already provided Proof for his case above and beyond what is required.

Romney Provided provided his Tax Returns that were from when he was already aware he would be running for President. What the people who are asking for more are trying to see is what he was doing before he was preparing to be president.

The fact that he refuses to show them shows he has something to hide.

For the situation to be the same President Obama would have had to refuse to show his Birth Certificate.


Quoting Lizard_Lina:

Even though he already provided what was required lol but its not the same in the eyes of Obama supporters.





Quoting Deezeekay:

No one has asked to see his birth certificate, but plenty are asking to see his tax returns.







Conservative Republicans     

Where Smart Moms Hang Out


12hellokitty
by Ruby Member on Aug. 28, 2012 at 12:28 PM
1 mom liked this

I guess white privilege didn't work out so well for McCain as his citizenship was also questioned...

 

brookiecookie87
by Platinum Member on Aug. 28, 2012 at 12:31 PM

Her argument was not that-Romney will do it in time. It's that he doesn't have to.

But the rush is that the way he did his taxes will likely give a window to what his views on taxes are. And since that is pertinent to how people would vote on him the rush is to get it out there before the Election is over.

Quoting candlegal:

I think it only fair that he gets 3 years like Obama did, why the rush in his case?

Quoting brookiecookie87:

But did he produce it? Did President Obama produce his birth certificate?

If he did produce it then using that to say Romney doesn't have to produce his other tax returns does not make sense. President Obama had already provided what was required (Just like Romney has provided what is required). But unlike Romney (So far) President went above and beyond and produced his Birth Certificate for everyone to see.

I am not sure if you are ignoring why people want to see Romney's tax returns from earlier, or that you understand he has something to hide and you want to protect him from that.


Quoting Lizard_Lina:

He did refuse to produce it, for an extended period of time. Romney has provided what is required just as Obama did. Why should he have to provide above and beyond? Did we ask for baby pictures at the hospital? Birth tags? Footprints? A testimony from the doctors who delivered him? No. Just the certificate. Which is what was required. And now we got romneys tax records for the last two years, which is what was required.


Quoting brookiecookie87:

You are right it is not the same.

President Obama has already provided Proof for his case above and beyond what is required.

Romney Provided provided his Tax Returns that were from when he was already aware he would be running for President. What the people who are asking for more are trying to see is what he was doing before he was preparing to be president.

The fact that he refuses to show them shows he has something to hide.

For the situation to be the same President Obama would have had to refuse to show his Birth Certificate.


Quoting Lizard_Lina:

Even though he already provided what was required lol but its not the same in the eyes of Obama supporters.





Quoting Deezeekay:

No one has asked to see his birth certificate, but plenty are asking to see his tax returns.








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Lizard_Lina
by Silver Member on Aug. 28, 2012 at 12:38 PM
1 mom liked this
Yup, he did, not right away, but he did. The differance is its a requirement to be born on us soil as a us citizen to be president. He released his requirement. He didn't go above and beyond. He released one piece of paper. Romney is required to provide two years of returns. And he did. Again, showed what was required of him. Why does Romney have to provide more than he has to but Obama is in the free and clear to only provide what he is required? Just like people want to see more proof for romneys returns people want to see more proof of Obama's birth in the us. But Obama isn't providing more proof. He provided what was required. Why should Romney be held to a different standard? Get over it.


Quoting brookiecookie87:

But did he produce it? Did President Obama produce his birth certificate?

If he did produce it then using that to say Romney doesn't have to produce his other tax returns does not make sense. President Obama had already provided what was required (Just like Romney has provided what is required). But unlike Romney (So far) President went above and beyond and produced his Birth Certificate for everyone to see.

I am not sure if you are ignoring why people want to see Romney's tax returns from earlier, or that you understand he has something to hide and you want to protect him from that.



Quoting Lizard_Lina:

He did refuse to produce it, for an extended period of time. Romney has provided what is required just as Obama did. Why should he have to provide above and beyond? Did we ask for baby pictures at the hospital? Birth tags? Footprints? A testimony from the doctors who delivered him? No. Just the certificate. Which is what was required. And now we got romneys tax records for the last two years, which is what was required.





Quoting brookiecookie87:

You are right it is not the same.

President Obama has already provided Proof for his case above and beyond what is required.

Romney Provided provided his Tax Returns that were from when he was already aware he would be running for President. What the people who are asking for more are trying to see is what he was doing before he was preparing to be president.

The fact that he refuses to show them shows he has something to hide.

For the situation to be the same President Obama would have had to refuse to show his Birth Certificate.



Quoting Lizard_Lina:

Even though he already provided what was required lol but its not the same in the eyes of Obama supporters.








Quoting Deezeekay:

No one has asked to see his birth certificate, but plenty are asking to see his tax returns.









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