Here Comes the Judge!
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.