Thursday, June 4, 2009

Was Sotomayor's Statement Racist?

UNSPECIFIED - UNDATED:   In this handout image...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
Supreme Court nominee Sonio Sotomayor, said:

"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."

I've heard a lot of what I'm going to assume to be feigned outrage by white males offended that a Supreme Court nominee would make such a statement. I'll give them somewhat of a break. No one knows what is over the line anymore. We've been forced to be so PC that a lot of white people are confused about what the rules are anymore. Black people say "nigger" with impunity. But, if a white guy says it, he can lose his job over it. Jeremiah Wright said all kinds of things about race that white people feel like they could not get away with saying. But, in the case of Sonya Sotomayor's statement, I think she was just pointing out something that is true and I think most of us really know it. Being part of an oppressed class in any society gives you a "richness" of experience you don't get from being part of the majority. Growing up as a poor Latina woman as opposed to growing up as a rich white male is going to help you identify with the oppressed in a way that is different than a white male will. Because of our the commonality of our experiences, I've often wondered why blacks, latinos, Jews, women & gays don't get along better than we do. We should each be able to identify with the other's perspectives. They are not exactly the same, but they are similar in many ways.

As I was thinking about this, something occurred to me. When God chose a messiah, one we could relate to and one who could relate to us, Jesus appeared in Nazareth a couple of thousand years ago. Jesus could have come as a Roman. Jesus could have come as part of the ruling class. Jesus could have come as the race that was on top and in power. But, Jesus did not. Jesus came to a working class family. Jesus came to a people who were under the thumb of another race. Personally, I think because of that Jesus relates to the poor and the oppressed (and us to Him) in a way that He otherwise could not have. Had Jesus been of the privileged class, would He have had the experiences that inspired Him to give the Sermon on the Mount? I think not.

Sotomayor was not saying that a white male can't make a fine justice. She was not saying that she would show favoritism to people of latin descent or to women. Calm down fellas. All she was saying was that her background, growing up poor and knowing what racism feels like from the other side that she brings a unique perspective to the bench, one she hopes would make her a better judge.

I don't know a lot about Judge Sotomayor. But, with all other things being equal, the fact that she grew up working class, the fact that she is a woman and the fact that she is Latina does make me hopeful that she would bring a balance to what has been a male and white dominated institution that is sorely needed, from my perspective. I am thrilled to see our positions of leadership finally begin to reflect the racial and gender makeup of our country. I think we will all be richer for it. I certainly hope you don't find it racist or sexist for me to say so.
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Don said...

I have no problem at all with what she said. The problem seems to be the perception by "those in the know" who judge these sorts of things and immediately "know" what she really meant in her heart. The comparison to Jesus' position in this life was well made and well put.

kc bob said...

Nice thoughts Brian.. I resonate with them.. especially liked what you said about Jesus' background.

annie said...

well said brian... and in truth, if the SCOTA were to truly reflect our societal makeup, 5 of the 9 justices would be women... sometimes progress is just slow and it is what it is...