, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 163-181
Date: 21 Mar 2012

Show Me Your Papers! Obama’s Birth and the Whiteness of Belonging

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Abstract

In the wake of Barack Obama's 2009 ascension to the White House, stories questioning his citizenship slowly trickled into the mainstream. By 2011, “Birtherism”—the belief that Obama is constitutionally disqualified from holding Presidential office—was a principle aspect of public discourse. Through an analysis of online comments in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, I analyze how dominant understandings of citizenship, race, class, and civil rights structure public navigation of “Birther” claims. I find the presence of several “narratives of belonging”—shared stories that people socially construct to account for who they are, how the world works, and where different people belong. These narratives reveal the sustained conflation of citizenship with an ideal or “hegemonic” form of white racial identity.