If She is Racist, Why Isn't He?...Race, Gender, & Class Conflicts
Recently I wrote an In My Opinion (IMO) in the Press Republican (PR) on April 28 about a local politician who recently made statements that were consistent with what men who were against the women’s suffrage movement might have said, or what racists against the abolitionist’s movement might have said. When I expressed disbelief that she could have made these statements, I was called intolerant by an ex-student of mine in another PR IMO (May 9). This ex-student attempted to take me to task for being intolerant simply because I challenged the politician's alleged statements. Aside from the student’s ignorance of the often painful plight of gays and lesbians and political agenda as a proclaimed Republican leader (the politician I challenged is also Republican), what many people wouldn’t know is that the student who challenged me is the son of a prominent community leader who actually wrote a PR IMO back in September 2008 challenging me for my attempt at satire in an August 2008 PR IMO about the potential of the Obama’s ascending to the White House.
These correspondences further framed for me the problematic way of seeing that arises when we are challenged because of how different our perspectives are from those of others. While I understand this, and challenge other's views often, I believe that I do it when I see clear disconnects. However, I am not so out of touch that I don’t recognize that others are probably operating from the same motivation. With this in mind I decided to enlist some assistance with the following scenario as a case study we could work from.
On “Meet the Press” there was a conversation between David Gregory, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, and Senator Pat Leahy of Vermont regarding the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, a Latina, to the Supreme Court. In the process of this conversation concern was expressed over Rush Limbaugh identifying her as a racist. Additionally he made these comments:
MR. LIMBAUGH: She brings a form of bigotry or racism to the court. I don't care, we're not supposed to say it, we're supposed to pretend it didn't happen. We're supposed to look at, at other things. But it's the elephant in the room. The real question here that needs to be asked, and nobody on our side, from a columnist to a TV commentator to anybody in our party has the guts to ask: How can a president nominate such a candidate, and how can a party get behind such a candidate? That's what would be asked if somebody were foolish enough to nominate David Duke or pick somebody even less offensive.
With Limbaugh's comments in mind, here is what nominee Sotomayor said:
"I...accept that our experiences as women and people of color affect our decisions. The aspiration to impartiality is just that--it's an aspiration because it denies the fact that we are by our experiences making different choices than others. ... Justice O'Connor has often been cited as saying that wise old men and wise old--and a wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am...not so sure that I agree with the statement. ... 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 wasn't lived that life. ... Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see. My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which I am unfamiliar. I simply do not know exactly what the difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage."
In contrast, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito made similar comments that were not taken to task by Limbaugh or anyone else. Those comments are below:
(Videotape, January 11, 2006)
JUDGE SAMUEL ALITO: When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who, who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or, or because of gender. And, and I do take that into account.
Why would Sotomayor’s comments be held to a different standard than Alito’s? What is really going on here? Is this indicative of something larger in our society? How might race, gender, and/or class be playing a part in the ways any of these scenarios are playing out?
Oh, and for those of you who actually read the ongoing exchange between me and the father-son combo, was I unfair or intolerant for taking our local politician to task for her comments? If so, why?