While I hate to generalize, I think it’s safe to say that, at this point, we all know who the people pictured above are.
In fact, it seemed that by last week, everybody knew who Judge Sonia Sotomayor was. The brilliant daughter of Puerto-Rican immigrants, raised by her hard-working widowed mother in gritty Soundview in the 1960s. The trailblazing Princeton graduate, and former editor of the esteemed Yale Law Review. Not merely respected, but held in awe by her peers and colleagues. Not to mention, this was the woman who a friend of mine has stated should be canonized upon her passing by the Catholic Church as the Patron Saint of Baseball. (He’s a lapsed Catholic, so I’m assuming he was at least half-joking…but Yankees fans are also notoriously half-crazy, so let me just hush. ) In fact, Sonia Sotomayor’s story is so much the embodiment of the cliched American dream that I’m giving homegirl a Possum Stew High Fievel.
"There are nooo cats in Ah-meh-ree-ca and the streets are paved with chee-eese..."
You’d think that a pick as stellar as Judge Sotomayor would have been lauded across the board, right? I mean, she’s such a shining example of that whole Horatio Alger, hard-work-merit-blah-blah lie, right? This woman’s success – nay, triumph – over difficult circumstances, double-strike prejudice and an economically-challenged background is nothing less than extraordinary, right? So everybody shoulda been out in the streets hooting and doing their own versions of the Fiqah Happy Dance, right? I mean…right?
::: cue crickets and rolling tumbleweeds :::
SIGH. I reeeeeally gotta stop playing this Pollyanna Glad Game shit. Because shortly after President Obama announced Sotomayor as his SCOTUS pick to replace retiring Justice Souter, the Stereotype Bullshit Parade began. Almost instantly, conservative pundits began howling at Obama’s “obvious” attempt to pander to his Latino constituents by selecting Sotomayor, who they dismissed without so much as a cursory glance at her bio or curriculum vitae. Stealth racism – in the form of coded descriptors – began popping up in discussion of Sotomayor (whose name was also routinely butchered by talking heads and guest panelists alike – no links, too pissed, search Jeffrey Rosen). She was deemed “not smart enough,” “emotional”, with a “gruff” and “bullying” manner. And, lest they be pegged as racist and sexist, Newt Gingrich trotted out the old tired “reverse racism” (because it’s only supposed to go ONE way) Oppressed White Man meme on Twitter. Basically, Gingrich said that Sotomayor’s statement in 2001 to be more qualified to judge some situations than a White male would be was racist and outrageous. Translation: “The brown people are in the building! Ring the alarm!” (Aaannnd once again, I wish I had more than two eyes to roll. Sotomayor would be one of five justices who wasn’t a White male to ever sit on the Supreme Court. Since 1789. Irrational White fears of brown folks exacting “getback” make me laugh until I pee myself…good times.)
And what of the liberals? Not much improvement there. Below, an excerpt from an article published at liberal-leaning Politico (blurb courtesy of Media Matters; the original has been updated)
However, the fact that Sotomayor is a Latina could also present a political challenge for Republicans. Senators from the GOP, which has suffered from an internal rift over immigration issues and problem-plagued efforts to reach out to Hispanics, will have to decide how directly and sharply they want to attack a Latina single mother whose confirmation to the court is virtually certain.
Latina. Single. Mother. This label – and all of the unfair stigma that accompanies it - arrives courtesy of the SUPPOSEDLY “friendly to PoC” liberal side. Nary a grown child nor a crumb-snatcher in sight, but. Latina. Single. Mother. And just as the liberal side was poo-pooing those always racist conservatives, this allegedly-liberal li’l attempt at satire in pops up in The Oklahoman
With friends like these...:"liberal" critique of conservatives on Sotomayor
Initially, what really bothered me about the Sotomayor furor was the fact that no one seemed to be objecting to anything about her that made sense. Like her track record (excluding, of course, Ricci v. DeStefano)! Last week, the only thing I really knew about Sotomayor was that she had been appointed/recommended by people with political agendas that I roundly despise: Bush the Elder appointed her to her first district court position, and Senator Moynihan (of the report) loves her. A quick review of her rulings revealed that her stance is often too moderate/centrist for my taste…but, then again, if you’re a brilliant woman of color, running around with your fist up shouting “REVOLUTION!” can definitely put a damper on your career. Finally, I was and still am concerned about appointing a practicing Catholic to the SCOTUS at a time when a sitting President is heckled during a university commencement ceremony for his pro-choice stance, and when choice is being attacked in the most extreme manner possible in this country.
The tone and nature of the critical hailstorm that followed the POTUS’s annoucement took a LOT of us on the blogging side of race activism by surprise. Judge Sotomayor is actually beyond capable, brilliant, and worthy of a seat on the Supreme Court of the United States. And yet, ungrounded dismissals of her sterling qualifications continue. That whole “Latina single mother” meme is still in circulation, only this time it’s Sotomayor’s mother – a WIDOW who raised two bright kids who grew up to be a judge and a doctor (Sotomayor’s younger brother) - being labelled. Not to mention the fact that she’s “emotional” and “bullying” and “not smart enough.” In spite of being just about the flipside of every stereotype these assholes can pull out of the woodwork, Sotomayor is routinely reduced to the stereotypical fiery, loud, ig’nant Puerto Rican chick from the Bronx. (Or MEXICAN, since “Latino” defaults to “Mexican” in the American racism framework.)
The phenomenon I have deemed White repudiation* is evidenced with devestating clarity in the case of Judge Sotomayor. White repudiation can be viewed as the “policing” arm of the White racist hegemonic sociopolitical structure. Exhibit A:the first round of attacks against Sotomayor rested firmly on racist and sexist preconceptions. Exhibit B:even when presented with evidence to the contrary, the reliance upon stereotypes to justify biased criticism of Judge Sotomayor remained. In spite of her extraordinary talents and above-and-beyond qualifications, a lot of White folks still look at Judge Sotomayor and see an “affirmative action hire.” Why? Because any hegemony dictates that the group in the dominant position is always positioned at the top of the hierarchy…even when they indisputably do not deserve to be there. No qualified White male was in the final running because there was no comparably-qualified White male. Really. It’s more than a little disturbing that in this “post-racial” Black POTUS nation in 2009, there are still some people out there who find it impossible to wrap their minds around that. But White repudiation, as a form of prejudice, is a logic-defying, fact-denying, fundamentally-absurd phenomenon.
I know without a doubt that this sexist and racist nonsense will continue until Justice (yup, said it!) Sotomayor is confirmed. Until then, dear readers, I’m gonna take a lesson from the always entertaining Liza Sabater of Culture Kitchen and fight stupid with fire.
(* Term “White repudiation” was coined after extensive back and forth with The Cruel Secretary about how best to name the kray-kray; special hat-tip to her.)