Sotomayor and the Race/Gender Debate

no more hateI happen to believe racism isn’t a matter of power, but a question about prejudice dependent on someone’s ethnicity or skin color: yes, non-whites can be racist. Honestly, I’ve personally known more racist black people than white. It’s prejudice and fear of the most horrific kind, because the intended targets can’t do a darn thing about what they are, any more than the racist person can change their own ethnicity or skin color.

At the moment, the American right is attacking Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor on a comment she made nearly eight years ago, calling it both racist and sexist.

[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. ((Read the whole thing from beginning to end starting here.))

I will not go into detail analyzing this comment, as Abby Ferber Huffington Post article already covers the way I see it. I will not analyze the context (which, frankly, makes the comment even less offensive than it might seem). Instead, I’ll simply refer you to the text on the New York Times website. ((ref:1)) Instead, I want to examine what Newt Gingrinch said.

“Imagine a judicial nominee said ‘my experience as a white man makes me better than a Latina woman,’” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., blogged today.

“Wouldn’t they have to withdraw? New racism is no better than old racism. A white man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw. Latina woman racist should also withdraw.” ((Source: NBC News))

US Supreme CourtHe’s right, but not for the reason he thinks. Sotomayor’s comments were neither racist nor sexist (see above-mentioned analysis on the Huffington Post). However, if a white male had said the same thing, we would have assume he was being racist and wouldn’t even bother thinking about what was actually said. Too many wouldn’t bother looking for context, either. He’s just be labeled and carried out of town on the rail.

It’s interesting that all the white men are going all up in arms, but we know how little they know about the subject: as long as they’re the ones spouting racist comments, it’s ok, but if anyone else mentions ethnicity and gender in the same sentence, it’s not. I’d call it hypocrisy, but I believe the truth is even simpler: never having experienced either racism or sexism, they can’t tell the difference between a comment about the subject from one that actually espouses either stance. Once again, it is a form of ignorance that is moving the air out of their lungs over their vocal cords. That and the continuing belief that the American people isn’t intelligent enough to figure out what they’re doing.

One more thing. At the time of her comments, she was not a Supreme Court judge, but a Circuit Judge at U.S Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ((See the official roster))(which covers Connecticut, Vermont and New York state). This is a very different job from the one of a Supreme Court Judge. Although both are part of the appellate process, the Supreme Court is largely concerned with matters of Constitutional law, and generally charged with “maintaining the consistent and orderly development of federal law.” More importantly, the Supreme Court essentially influences the entire nation, whereas the Court of Appeals has limited jurisdiction. Under those circumstances, and keeping in mind that judges are not emotionless robots, I believe in the circumstances she was discussing, many are misinterpreting, misrepresenting, and misleading us with their knee-jerk reaction.

I would think that a white male would better understand another white male than anyone else. Why not? They share some basic commonalities, after all, that don’t even apply cross gender. To pretend Sotomayor said anything more controversial than that is either disingenuous or plain ignorant.

Meantime, given that we are talking “race”, gender, and that pesky Republican-Democrat fight, this issue is sure to remain anything but laodicean.

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