Monday, July 13, 2009

Wise Latina Woman

I've been watching the confirmation hearings of Judge Sonia Sotomayor and I'm frustrated and disgusted by the display of White, male privilege and fear that I'm seeing. It blows my mind that we've made such strides in this country with regard to overt racism, but at the same time, those gains seem to mean nothing when the reality of racism pervades our government so thouroughly. Much of the controversy surrounds a statement that she made in 2001 saying "I would hope that a wise, Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a White male who hasn't lived that life." Due to this statement, there is much talk of "reverse discrimination" and "reverse racism". Every time I hear these phrases coming out of the mouths of supposedly intelligent people, I want to scream. What the hell is reverse discrimination/racism???? As far as I know, racism is racism and discrimination is discrimination regardless of who is being discriminated against. No one race, gender, religion, etc. owns racism or discrimination. The belief that racism can only be perpetrated against people of color, for example, only serves to make racism okay (as long as its not publicly, and blatantly exhibited) because its something that only hurts "those people". The reality is that racism and discrimination hurts society as a whole.

What I don't understand is why this woman is being taken to task for asserting that her ethnic background and gender have an influence on the way she views the world and (gasp!) the way she may rule on cases. Is the same not true for the hundreds of White male law-makers? Am I to believe that White males' policies and judgements are not influenced by their upbringings, their race, and their gender? It's as if they would have the world believe that only people who are not White and male are suceptible to influences such as race, ethnicity, gender, and social class. Seriously????

I certainly understand Senator Lindsey Graham's assertion that if he had made a similar comment being that he is a Whilte male that he would have been condemned as a racist. However, I would argue that in the country in which we currently live, a White, male law-maker doesn't have to discuss or defend the influences that his gender or race have on his ability to make wise choices. He may discuss being a farmer or coming from "common" roots, but he doesn't dare publicly reflect on how White privilege has shaped his view of the world.
In American politics, White and male is the yard stick that is accepted as the norm. Everyone else is, well, everyone else. It's hard for me to hear law-makers claim that it's important to have diversity on the bench, but only as an effort to prove that racism, classism, and sexism have been eradicated from American politics. Not that we need diversity because different people bring different viewpoints that may add to the richness of dialogue and communication. Come on, folks. I think the American public is tired of the posturing, eloquent language, and "code words" (such as empathy) that serve to promote the kind of fear that only propagates racism, sexism, classism, and all the other -isms that we desparately need to overcome.

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