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Bill Sinkford: Show Me Your Papers May 2, 2011

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By Reverand Bill Sinkford

http://www.firstunitarianportland.org/our-church/ministers-a-staff/rev-sinkford-blog

Thursday, April 28 2011 11:06

Show Me Your Papers

The first African American President of the United States, duly and overwhelmingly elected, finally submitted to the demand to “show me your papers.” I am angry,  sad and deeply troubled about the politics of race in our nation.

In South Africa, under Apartheid, Blacks had to produce “pass cards” when challenged by white authorities to prove that they were authorized to be in white areas. There was a time, here in the US, when Blacks had to carry papers proving that they were allowed off the land of their owners.

Those Americans who look or sound “Hispanic” know that they can confront the same demand today. “Show me your papers.”

When I was running for the UUA Presidency, not only were my academic credentials and business experience questioned, but I was asked to produce my ordination certificate. Some Unitarian Universalists questioned whether a congregation had ever called me to our ministry, whether I was “one of us.”

President Obama finally decided to produce his “long form” birth certificate this week. The official “certificate of live birth,” the newspaper announcement of his birth, the testimony of many and his personal word were not enough. Our President finally “showed his papers.”

Is this racism at work? No white President or candidate for the presidency has ever been asked to prove his citizenship. Why now, why this President if not racism?

Some will acknowledge that of course racism fuels this “debate,” but excuse it because “this is politics” and “if you can’t stand the heat, you should get out of the kitchen.” Political calculus is certainly involved both for those who use this issue for personal gain and, indeed, in Obama’s decision to produce the long form certificate.

But that excuse does not calm my anger or allay my fear. How sad that our politics are still locked in divisiveness and fear. What does that mean for our future as a diverse people? The reality remains that a significant minority of the American people believe the birther “silliness,” to use Obama’s phrase.

Nor, I fear, will the production of his birth certificate put this controversy to rest. Within hours, the birther voices were calling for an examination of Obama’s SAT scores and college references. His academic success must have been affirmative action at its worst.

It would be so easy for me to dismiss the birthers and the politics built on their fear. It would be easy for us, as Unitarian Universalists, to believe that our faith community has moved well past these pre-judgments and these fears.

This spring, we began the “Beloved Conversations.” The goal is to help the congregation discern how we are called to live out our values in a racially and ethnically pluralistic world. The conversations have been marked with great care, great love and great honesty. I hope that we will involve more members of the church in the fall.

At the very least, the birther “silliness” should inform our imagination for the ministry this church is called to offer. But it also might become a helpful metaphor for us as we think about our welcome of a diversity of people. What subtle and no-so-subtle signals do we send about who this congregation is for? What figurative “papers” do we ask for or require? The personal stories from the Beloved Conversations are not mine to share. Racial and cultural identity is a complex and highly personal matter. Visual clues are of limited value and our own preconceptions often lead to harm. What I can tell you is that we have our own work to do.

Bill

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Comments»

1. Montana - May 2, 2011

Our president had already showed his US passport to;

1. Get a Passport;
http://swampland.blogs.time.com/2008/03/20/obamas_passport_files_hacked/

2. Become a US Senator;

I feel sorry for all the little Birthers, It’s not their fault; it’s your families’ fault that taught you that you were better than other people based on race, creed ethnicity, color, nationality or sex, in short they engrained in you their hate (what a legacy).

But you know at some point you need to grow up and act like an adult and think for yourself and distinguish what is true and what is BS.

But there is where the little Birthers find yourself because we all know it was never about a birth certificate or grades, because we all know you want to go around wearing white sheets, burn crosses and hang people who are not like you, we know that your growth is stunted in your hate, and hate is what this is all about, you will never win anymore, and I feel sorry for all of you. I can only imagine when our President is re-elected what you phonies will lie about next. Oh, and just know, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and sounds like a duck, it’s a duck, the little Birthers are a bunch of racists!


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