If it's our ideals and not our origins that make us countrymen, Romney's tactics suggest that he's the one whose Americanness should come under question.
Nobody's ever asked to see my birth certificate. But as someone of Chinese descent I have been asked plenty of times where I'm from -- and when I say "Poughkeepsie," I often get the follow-up question that's almost a cliché now among Asian Americans: "No, where are you really from?"
It's always disheartening to get that question, even though I've learned to answer it with equanimity and usually take care to make the inquisitor feel not-stupid. But it's always clarifying, for it reveals the default picture in the minds of some of my fellow Americans about who they are, who we are, and who I am.
That's why Mitt Romney's birther-baiting remarks today are, in a way, welcome. Let there be no doubt: He is the candidate for people who think the name Obama must be Muslim and its bearer indelibly foreign. He is also the candidate for the greater number of people who do not initially imagine that someone with my face, my eyes, my skin could be from this country.
Even in one of his home states (Michigan, the site of today's remarks), Mitt Romney is not some iconic American hero whose patriotism is beyond reproach. The reason no one questions where Romney was born is simply this: he is white. If that's good enough for you, then you're good enough for Romney.