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Here Comes the Judge!

July 13, 2009

Sotomayor

Today begins the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for the Judge Sonia Sotomayor. Perhaps never in the modern history of this process has a nominee been more maligned and mis-categorized than this candidate. From erroneous allegations of her being a “racist” to literally having some challenge her ability to write, Sotomayor illustrates the degree to which a person of color who doesn’t tow the line of traditional right wing judicial bile will be viewed with both distrust and circumspection.

One could argue that the treatment Clarence Thomas received in the court of public opinion was much worse than the few statements made about Sotomayor. After all, Thomas was accused of being almost a sexual deviant because of his undefined relationship with Anita Hill. However, such comparisons miss the point. Thomas was attacked because he was accused of sexual harassment by Anita Hill. The charge brought forth a clear accuser with a set of facts that would  either be believed or challenged. The treatment of Sotomayor has been worse frankly because they lack a specific accuser and they come from the core paranoia many White Americans have about people of color when ascending to positions of power : that somehow they’re not as smart, even when they graduate at the top of their class from Princeton University; they’re too stuck on race and cant get over it, even though their opinions on such issues show a clear balance and lack of bias, and even though they make statements about the importance of their identity other White male Justices have made, they’ll be considered racist because their unique ethnic perspective should never matter in the first place. Sotomayor’s treatment is worse by the sheer fact that she can do nothing to exonerate herself of such assumptions. Though Clarence Thomas was able to provide character witnesses and compelling testimony to question the veracity of Anita Hill’s accusations, no such tools will be available to Sotomayor in her attempt to correct the record on the distortions that have been made about her statements, opinions, and personage.

In the end Sotomayor will probably be confirmed, barring any major gaffes on her part. But the bigger question to be asked is what the treatment of her nomination thus far says about America as a nation and the way it views people of color as they rise to positions of leadership in degrees unheard of in the past. But dare we ask such questions, particularly when like Sotomayor’s past statements they bring forth cries of people being “too racial.” Indeed, only time will tell.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 13, 2009 4:31 pm

    Seems as though discussing the truisms of America’s political racist past is only beneficial when people of color are thanking the big wigs for a new position. Yet doing this while explaining how happy they are that race wasn’t an option for their hire, they cannot bring up the reasoning behind how historic a move it is, and the reasons why it was necessary to begin with. The big elephant in the room: racism in politics, is like the illegitimate child who now lives in the adulterer’s home.

  2. July 13, 2009 4:38 pm

    Good blog. Indeed, today’s hearings did seem to demonstrate an inability of some to accept the rise of folks of color. In actuality it was mostly bluster, since they seem to have little to use in their attempt to downgrade Sotomayor. So with minimal ammunition they chose to try to exploit the President’s use of the word empathy in describing Sotomayor early on. This tactic will likely only split the opinion of folks further down the middle, in thirds, fourths, or whatever. Not because those who agree with them believe their drivel that empathy and life experience may make Sotomayor unable to be objective, but because racism still exists. As we saw from Palin’s oft-used technique in the Presidential election, this type racism can be fueled by stoking fear in those who often feel powerless. From the looks of these hearings, it doesn’t seem that this practice will be ending soon. Clearly, there are plenty in the higher level of government who are specialists at throwing in just enough empty accusations based on innuendo to turn these simmering flames into fires.

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