Lack of Debate over Ted Cruz’s Citizenship Highlights Racial Disparity

Photo courtesy of United States Senate, Wikipedia

On Monday, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) became the first major candidate to officially announce that he will be running for president in the 2016 election. During his speech at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., he outlined his core values of liberty and Christianity, as well as his belief in strict adherence to the United States Constitution.

“I want to ask each of you to imagine – imagine millions of courageous conservatives, all across America, rising up together to say in unison ‘we demand our liberty,’” said Cruz.

As a well-known conservative Republican, Cruz has established himself as a champion for the party’s main tenets.

While he has gained supporters regarding his sponsored bills in Congress and most recent speeches, some details of his personal life were questioned. Cruz’s adherence to the Constitution and his eligibility to run for president were briefly disputed when it was revealed that he was not born on U.S. soil — he was born in Calgary, Canada.

Naturally, many Americans were confused by the status of his eligibility when this was originally publicized. Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution states that “no person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President.”

The argument was quickly settled when a majority of legal scholars agreed on an interpretation of the clause. The Harvard Law Review wrote that the term “natural born citizen” extends to individuals born abroad that have at least one parent that is a U.S. citizen. Therefore, by default, Cruz is a “natural born citizen” and is eligible to run.

This argument is reminiscent of the birther movement that emerged during the 2008 presidential elections by those that believed that then-Senator Barack Obama was lying about his birthplace, although the current discussions are not nearly as vicious. Many of his opponents vehemently conspired to rally around the rumor that he was born in Kenya, and was thus unable to become president according to the Constitution. These conversations continued even after his administration released his birth certificate, which clearly proved that he was born in Hawaii.

The irony here is that if the Constitution had been interpreted to President Obama’s factually non-existent dispute in the same way it is being interpreted to benefit Senator Cruz, the conversation around President Obama’s credibility would have ended quickly. Even if the rumors were true and he was in fact born in Kenya, he would have been proven eligible to become president because his mother is a U.S. citizen.

Obama’s birthplace was not the only fact that was disputed during his campaign. In June before the 2008 presidential election, The New York Times reported that his status as a Christian and his patriotism were being questioned. In response, his advisors created a website called Fight the Smears. The link now redirects to Obama’s official website but, at the time, it refuted all of the conspiracies and rumors.

The idea that visible people of color are somehow “less American” than their white counterparts is not a new one. Cruz and Obama are both men of color, but Cruz has a significant advantage over Obama. He is half-Cuban, but he passes for a white man because of his light skin complexion. With white passing privilege, he is exempt from a lot of the daily microaggressions and disadvantages that visible people of color are subjected to in the United States. His passing privilege exempts him from intense investigations into his birthplace, among other things.

Many Americans believe that racism ended with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but countless studies refute this idea. In a study by the National Opinion Research Center, 57 percent of non-African American respondents said that they believed that African Americans were less intelligent than white Americans.

Both Cruz and Obama were very clear about their birthplaces when they began their political campaigns, but it seems that only Obama’s administration and rhetoric have been scrutinized. This hypocrisy highlights the racial tensions still existing within the American people and needs to be eradicated.