Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor and Identity as Experience

A few weekends ago my mother forwarded me a list of 10 reasons why Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor was a good choice for the Supreme Court. My lawyer brother responded to each point with a reason why the point was irrelevant, missing the facts, or simply defensive in nature. He clarified at the end of the email that he wasn't saying Judge Sotomayor wasn't qualified - just that the current "messaging" around her focused on saying she was not liberal and she loved white people. One of which is disgusting, and the other of which is a point of alarm (or, actually they are both those things). In short, he ended the email with "where's the change I voted for?". As these things tend to happen, that evening I watched a clip of Rachel Maddow where she echoed this same sentiment. I actually felt incredibly well-informed after watching her coverage!

So it may be true that Sonia is actually not a "liberal activist judge" that the Republicans claim her to be. But I found myself leaping to defend her because of the nature of the attacks against her. Her identity as a Latina from a working-class background, and her clear refusal to negate that identity, has become the sole focus of most attacks. Moreover, the not-so-subtle Othering of her identity - calling her "Maria", tripping over her name, asking "Is she Puerto Rican?" - reinforces the notion that she would not be in this position as Supreme Court nominee if she was not Other. In the clip below, Rachel sums up some of the more egregious "errors".






One of the many things being called into question is her quote about how women, people from low-income backgrounds, and people of color are in a particular position to make judgements. Rachel discusses this more in the clip below:





Again, as it always seems to happen, the next day I read an article in the NYT Magazine that perfectly matched the feelings invoked from such racist and sexist lack of understanding about how the world works and the hierarchy of race and sex in the US. The NYT article was called "The Case for working with your hands" by Matthew B. Crawford. Since reading this, I have heard others comment that it should be titled "the case for workers autonomy" as the freedom the author experiences in his repair shop have a lot to do with education, whiteness, and access to resources. However, this quote still captivates me:

"In the boardrooms of Wall Street and the corridors of Penn. Ave, I don't think you'll see a yellow sign that says 'Think Safety!' as you do on job sites and in many repair shops, no doubt because those who sit at the swivel chairs tend to live remote from the consequences of the decisions they make. Why not encourage gifted students to learn a trade, if only in the summers, so that their fingers will be crushed once or twice before they go on to run the country?"

You can see the elitism of our education system still present in that thought process however the quote contextualizes Judge Sotomayor's removed-from-any-context quote. She has had her fingers crushed and she realizes that people on the margins of the normative middle (those not elected to the Supreme Court) live the effects of her rulings. If the white male judges* that predominate the legal world were to experience the outcomes of their rulings in the intense and real way it may result in some very different decision making.

*Clearly being white and male doesn't hand you privilege on a plate. No essentialism of Identity here.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey! I just would like to give an enormous thumbs
up for the nice info you’ve got right
here on this post. I can be coming back to your weblog
for extra soon.

Have a look at my web blog :: loreal semi permanent hair color products

Anonymous said...

Whats up! I simply want to give an enormous thumbs up for
the good info you’ve gotten here on this post. I will probably be
coming again to your blog for more soon.

My web site :: examples of semantics and syntax

Anonymous said...

Good day! I simply wish to give a huge thumbs up for
the great information you could have right here on this
post. I can be coming again to your blog for more soon.


Also visit my weblog ... sempron x2 190 review

Anonymous said...

Hiya! I simply wish to give an enormous thumbs up for the great information
you could have right here on this post. I might be coming again to
your blog for extra soon.

Feel free to visit my page seohyun yonghwa wgm eng sub

Anonymous said...

Hiya! I simply wish to give an enormous thumbs up for the good information you have
here on this post. I will be coming again to your blog for extra soon.



Feel free to visit my web site: semisonic secret smile