by Juhem Navarro-Rivera
In a recent survey, 51% of Republicans said they didn’t think Barack Obama was born in the United States. Since Obama became president in 2009, birtherism, the conspiracy theory that claims President Obama was not born in the U.S., has become prevalent among Republicans. That such a high percentage of GOP voters think the President wasn’t born in the U.S. is appalling. What is worse is that so many GOP politicians are pandering to their constituents with birther jokes.
In the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), several GOP politicians, most prominently presidential hopefuls Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney (former governors of Minnesota and Michigan, respectively), peppered the audience with birther jokes. But it was Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID), one of the Latino Republicans who rode the Tea Party wave in 2010, who got the party started. In a party lacking diversity, Labrador has become an important figure among Republicans wanting to show they are inclusive and diverse. In this role, Labrador was a featured speaker at CPAC. He started his speech saying, “I was fortunate enough to be an American citizen by birth and I have the birth certificate to prove it,” which his audience rewarded by bursting into laughter.
Labrador was probably looking for a cheap laugh and some pandering, but this is no laughing matter. As Latinos, we are always being asked about our “real” origins, even when some of us may have those origins in this land even before the arrival of the Mayflower. Labrador was born in Puerto Rico and our own birth certificates have been under the microscope recently due to authenticity issues. He’s been a victim of stereotyping himself, as he was smeared by his opponent for his work as an immigration attorney—though it seems he didn’t learn the lesson and is aiding in the dispersion of false beliefs. The Tea Party has a nativist streak in them, and he should be careful of what he says before his own birth certificate becomes an issue.
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of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.