So Let it be Written, So Let it be Done!

July 16, 2009

What does it mean to be a “wise latina woman”?

Filed under: kamakula,politics — kamakula @ 6:26 pm
Tags: , ,

These words have dogged Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor for a long time. Even in her testimony before congress, she still didn’t quite address this to her detractors satisfaction. Instead, they argue that she sidestepped the question. Part of the reason she has been unable to answer this properly and too her defenders, is that simply to her and her defenders, the charge of racism makes no sense. In fact, I think that most people are simply just deliberately misinterpreting her statement for political reasons.

For the few that are truely confuddled, here is what is going on. In conversation, we sometimes use terms that reinforce our identity. For example, someone might hear me say “I’m a strong black man”. Furthermore, I might make a statement (which you’ll see is quite similar to Sotomayor’s) such as “I would hope as a strong black man, I’d be fully capable of lifting that gigantic boulder”. Does that mean that I feel only black men could lift that boulder? No.

A literal reading of that statement would imply that not only would you have to be black, but also strong, and a man to lift the boulder. Clearly though, a boulder is an object that any person, regardless of race or gender, can lift, so long as they are strong. Yes weaklings, suck on it.

So, similarly, arriving at the correct judgement is something that anyone, regardless of race or gender, is capable of doing, so long as their life experiences have been such that they can be considered to be a wise person.

When Sotomayor says “wise latina woman”, she is emphasizing that her achievements are open to other latina women. That becoming a well known and respected jurist is something within reach of a latina women. Her purpose is so transparent (to other minorities at least) that none of us even have to think twice about what she means or why she chose the words she did.

That white males have a problem with this highlights a theme which is common in any of my politically driven posts, that there exists white (conservative – at least, they are the ones most vocal) men who either refuse to accept or deliberately ignore that minorities still struggle in this country. That young black, asian, latina men and women grossly lack solid role models. One man or woman is not enough. Even now, people attempt to marginalize the achievements of Obama at the same time that they cry that his presidency is proof that we are beyond race.

No. Not at all. A handful of minorities in positions of national power and influence is not enough. We must have minorities richly permeating all aspects of society. If we had a gathering of all living presidents and vice presidents of the united states, how much do you think Obama would stand out?

This sounds strange, but until we have a society where a minority president, senator, mayor, CEO does not stand out by simply entering a gathering of his or her peers, we are not “post-racial”. Furthermore, there is not reason that we should. Differing cultures bring different, sometimes unique perspectives on this exact same life. There is no reason we should be in a hurry to squash our diversity and hide it under a rug.

There are those who look at her nomination as just another case of affirmative action. Well, you are right. But I have a question, if you feel that “anyone” should be able to judge, that anyone, regardless of background has the capacity to become a capable jurist – why should it be a problem that we want a supreme court that better reflects the diversity of culture, gender, and background that is our country?

Furthermore, by a lot of objective standards, Sotomayor is the most qualified person to ever be nominated to the Supreme Court. Even if you disagreed with that, you nobody disputes that she is highly qualified. So, why is there a big issue that she was chosen, instead of a white male (given the dominance of said demographic of supreme court appointments).

Seriously, any arguments on the sake of qualifications presuppose that the nomination should go to the person most objectively qualified for the job. Here is the thing though. If we actually had an fully objective way to measure judicial quality, we wouldn’t need to nominate Supreme Court jurists. We would just pick whoever was the current top of the list. The fact that we nominate people to a position implies that the person doing the nomination has the leeway to consider issues beyond a purely objective “can he/she do this job”.

What world do these people live in?  Like it or not, if we want to be a post-racism society (not post-racial), then we must be prepared to have minorities experience what it means to be our presidents, our supreme court justices, our senators, and our CEOs. And guess what, attempting to justify NOT appointing Sotomayor on the basis of having the Supreme Court reflect the exact racial distribution of our country is not being post-racism. If you can only tolerate minority control and ownership up to the point that it matches their percentage of the population, we still have a problem.

Ponder this – why should it feel normal to see one or two black faces in a group of 30 other white ones, but not the reverse?


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