31 May 2009

Sotomayor and Latina vision

I was twittering the other day when @ayse said
I'm not sure I'll be able to make it thru the inevitable "reverse discrimination against white males" hooha during Sotomayor's confirmation.8:09 AM May 27th from web
Half an hour later, former Speaker of the House @newtgingrich tweeted
"White man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw. Latina woman racist should also withdraw.""
Good call, Ayse. On the money.

One line taken out of context from an old speech has been used by right-wingers to indict Sotomayor over and over for her "racism:"
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.
Lawsamercy. How can she SAY that? We're all equal! If we say we aren't equal, then we are racist!!

Here's why she can say that: white privilege.

Here's what white people, me included, fail to see on a day to day basis: our very skin color affords us a feeling of ease and comfort in this society that people of color don't have.

The deck is stacked in our favor. White people set up the system, white people run the system, and white people make the system work best for other white people, especially white people of means.

White privilege means that we can trust, if we are rejected for a job, that it isn't because of our skin color. We can go shopping without people following us around the store. When we get pulled over by a cop, we have very little worry about getting beaten up or shot. If our children get put in special education, we trust that it is because they truly have special needs, not because of the color of their skin.

Sotomayor, no matter how entrenched in the system she becomes, still has the advantage of an outsider's perspective, because, no matter who she becomes, no matter what she does, she will still be largely seen and treated as a woman of color, as something outside the norm.

It's like the old saying about being as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. To be a person of color in our society is to have to be aware, at all times, where the rocking chairs are and who is occupying them, because still, even in 2009, the moment you quit paying attention is the moment your tail gets crushed.

It is this sharper vision I believe she was speaking of in her speech. She was saying that her perspective as a Latina woman, in a vast field of white male judges, brings something they can't offer because she sees things they don't. That isn't racism, that's life experience.

And in case you're going to hit me with the "but everything has changed" argument, let me first say that yes, things have changed and are still changing for the better. But here are some news stories from recent past:
Ecuadoran man killed by mob in hate crime: "The teens later told police that they were from East Patchogue and Medford and that they were looking for Hispanics to beat up."
Unarmed man shot by officer in train station
State Trooper Chokes Paramedic

Those are just a few. There are many, many others that pop up so often that it is hard to keep track of them all - and those are just the ones that are reported.

So when Sonia Sotomayor says she might have perspective that white males don't, I believe her. She has to.

14 comments:

PunditMom said...

I've become so much more aware of this as a mom of ans Asian-American daughter. The things I have taken for granted in terms of the privilege I have as a Caucasian will never be hers to take for granted.

I'd like to be wrong about this, but I'm not sure I'll live long enough to be right.

Kizz said...

Don't forget the off duty police officer in NYC who was shot and killed by OTHER POLICE OFFICERS as he was pursuing someone breaking into his own car.

Post racism, my lilly white ass.

Adrienne said...

My problem with this is....

DO I want somone's "perspective" of the constitution? It worries me (a Democrat) that Pres. Obama mentioned in hie nomination speech that she will (and I will not quote cuz I will be wrong) use her heart. ACK!

SUEB0B said...

Adrienne - I think he was using code language for "she's a woman." You know how we just have trouble thinking. But in any case, if you use your heart, is it impossible to simultaneously use your brain?

nec said...

Amen Suebob! You have put it into words... Thank you.

flurrious said...

I find all of the wankery annoying, yet par for the course. At the same time, there's something appallingly hilarious about a person like Rush Limbaugh -- a man who has commented on the buoyancy of black people -- crying racism.

lizgwiz said...

And, of course, no one goes on to quote the rest of the speech, in which she discusses the need, as a judge, to aspire to be objective, and aware of her own biases.

Anyone who claims to be completely objective, in any context, is full of so much hooey. We're ALL shaped by our experiences.

gael said...

Wow. Beautifully written. Goosebump material. Brava.

J at www.jellyjules.com said...

I loved your analogy of the cats in the room of rocking chairs. Perfectly stated.

The day when racism is totally gone, when we can still rejoice in our cultural identities and understand that being equal does not mean being the same, will be a day worth celebrating.

I hope we get there someday.

Suzanne said...

Ayse is always right on with these things. I wish it wasn't the case this time, though.

Great, thoughtful post.

angel apologist said...

Beautifully and succinctly put, as always. You write like a dream. You should be very proud of yourself.

g said...

I'm infuriate about the way they are doing this. The quote, even OUT of context, is not racist. But IN context, it actually has the opposite meaning of what they characterize it.

They are defaming her, plain and simple, and it's infuriating.

I wonder if they're doing it so viciously because they KNOW she will get the votes, so they're just trying to energize their base,to fundraise. But to defame some to do that is reprehensible.

West Coast Grrlie Blather said...

Amen.

Sister Wolf said...

Same here.

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