I haven’t been paying close attention to political news lately, but what little I’ve heard about Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings made me do a double-take: was Congress actually asking Sotomayor to prove that not being a privileged white guy might make her biased? Seriously.
Don’t anyone ever come on this site and tell me things are mostly equal now except for a few bad eggs. We are watching some of the most privileged, powerful old white dudes on the face of the earth freak out because a Latina woman dares suggest her life experience has given her wisdom. From the above-linked Eugene Robinson article:
Thus it is irrelevant if Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. talks about the impact of his background as the son of Italian immigrants on his rulings — as he did at his confirmation hearings — but unforgivable for Sotomayor to mention that her Puerto Rican family history might be relevant to her work. Thus it is possible for Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to say with a straight face that heritage and experience can have no bearing on a judge’s work, as he posited in his opening remarks yesterday, apparently believing that the white male justices he has voted to confirm were somehow devoid of heritage and bereft of experience.
Robinson nails the cognitive disconnect on its proverbial head: being “white and male” is still seen as neutral, rather than one of many race/gender identities, such as “female and Latina.” Even more ironically, they seem to be acting on the presumption that white men are naturally equipped to judge people of every description, while other types of people might not be so capable. Of course, this is exactly what our society has been conditioning us to believe: not that white men are capable of understanding the needs of other types of people – no one ever expected that – but that they have some divinely assigned custodianship of the rest of us.
It’s absurd to think that any individual – white, male, female, Latina, whatever – is capable of understanding the circumstances of every other individual, or that any life or education can prepare you for proper judgment in absolutely any situation. Asking Sotomayor to prove she’s capable of sound judgment despite not being a white man while assuming white men naturally have sound judgment over everyone is an insult.