if they don’t want you to have one, i’ll tell you:
My Nana is a year younger than Ms. Cooper, and is very close to going through the same shit. She doesn’t have a birth certificate, because in her area, when she was born, they really took a lackadaisical attitude toward them in the first place, let alone for Black children, a further step backward for Black girls, and even further steps back for a child born of rape. One of the only two ways she can prove who she is is that she currently has an ID that she got (yes, legally) ages ago, and has been renewing ever since.
The only other way is to find someone who was around when she was born or was a small child. Let me clarify that. She will have to go down to NC, where she was born, track down a neighbor, a friend, someone who was there, who was related, who waved at her from across a room once. Somebody who knew her when, and is willing to go on record to say so.
Except there isn’t anyone. There isn’t anyone left alive who knew her and her family back then. Of 12 children, she was the oldest, and outlived them all. Town hall has nothing. City Hall? Nothing. Hospitals? What hospitals? Those hospitals are gone, and she was born at home anyway. There’s only her kids.
There’s only us.
My grandmother was born and raised here, but she is also undocumented.
My grandmother has been eligible to vote since the summer of ‘35. She already can’t get a passport — we know, we’ve tried. If she is ever asked for further documentation than an SS card/number and state ID, she is screwed.
I wanted to post this because this is a problem that is more common among Black seniors than most know. My husband’s grandmother has a similar issue. During Integration, citizen records had to be integrated too. Black records were routinely badly kept prior to integration sometimes in leaky basements or in poorly ventilated rooms. Sometimes misfiled and later disgarded. There were also a high number of home births. This is one reason that birth certificates weren’t required for marriage, but rather the attestment by two or more witnesses that the two parties seeking marriage were who they said they were.
Anyway, one of the forms of protest of integration was the mass “accidental” destruction of Black records. Records corresponding to property ownership, birth records and more, simply disappeared. Most people would think that seniors would have needed their birth certificate at some point before now, but really, think about the reasons you need a birth certificate. Most often it’s for a job. Well, they’re retired. Or for services- their SS Card was sufficient to get those services.
Stories such as this aren’t even taking into account the fees associated with getting the birth certificate- THERE SIMPLY ISN’T ONE. This person, according to county documents don’t exist, through no fault of their own.
Now are you seeing the problem with these laws? Is it starting to become more clear? How do they prove who they are if the documents needed to do so don’t exist?