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Was It ‘Racist’ To Question President Obama’s Birthplace?

Aug 14, 2020


Whenever people are asked for evidence that President Trump is a racist, the same few examples are usually given. One of the top examples is always that President Trump questioned where President Obama was born, the so-called ‘Birther’ claim.

President Obama was born in the United States. But was it ‘racist’ to think he might not have been? Whenever someone is asked for evidence of their accusation that President Trump is a racist, his ‘Birtherism’ is always near the top of the list.  Trump had doubts that Barack Obama was born in the United States and demanded to see his birth certificate. He pushed the issue until President Obama released his birth certificate.

For eight years or so in general, any criticism or questioning of President Obama was considered to be racist almost by definition because he is black. In every circumstance, they imagined that if Obama were white, he would not be facing the associated criticism. Criticisms of the workability or costs of Obamacare for example were often met with charges that the critic “could not stand to see a black man in the White House”. Whether the charge of racism was sincere or not, it usually worked to shut down any debate.

But what about Obama’s birthplace? Certainly, no one would be questioning this if Obama were white, right? To answer this question, it is critical to know where the idea that Obama might have been born outside of the U.S. even came from. Obama’s father was a Kenyan government official, not a U.S. citizen. But that in and of itself should not cast doubt on where Barack Obama was born.

So where did this idea that Barack Obama was born in Kenya come from? Who created the Birther Movement? The answer is not Donald Trump. Its not even Hillary Clinton, whose campaign was asking the question even before Trump was. The answer is that Barack Obama created the Birther Movement. Obama’s own biographies in two separate places claimed he was “Born in Kenya”.

In 1990, Obama was president of the Harvard Law Review. The yearbook for the Harvard Law Review had a biography for him and it said, “born in Kenya, raised in Indonesia and Hawaii.” The second instance is in Obama’s biography that went along with his book, “Dreams Of My Father”. This bio also said he was “born in Kenya”.  It seems suspicious at least that two separate biographies would both get his birthplace wrong and both randomly pick the same wrong place. And that these errors would not be noticed or corrected by Barack Obama himself.

There have been a few possible explanations for how this could happen. One is that Obama created or at least allowed the false narrative about his birthplace because he thought it helped him in some ways prior to running for political office. The real explanation for how his own biographies were both wrong is not as important as the fact that they were. And they remained uncorrected for a long time.

The question we’re answering here is if it is racist to think he might have been born in Kenya. Given the origin of the story, you might as well ask, “Is it racist to believe Barack Obama about where Barack Obama said he was born, not once but twice?”  The answer is no, of course it is not. It was quite a reasonable question given the circumstances. It is also impossible to believe that people would not question the birthplace of a white man running for President who had two biographies published that said he was born in another country. Of course, any such person would be questioned because it strains credulity to think that two of his own biographies would be incorrect and left incorrect for decades.

It cannot be overstated how important Trump’s Birtherism is to the claim that he is a racist. It is cited almost constantly even to this day as one of the prime examples that proves the case. His birthplace was questioned because two of his own biographies said he was born in Kenya, not because he was black.

John Black is the founder of the WhatHappened.com website.

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