I knew that President Obama taking the office would unleash all sorts of racism, covert and overt. We’ve seen this happen with the teabaggers who held up signs that denigrated our president’s ethnicity. That would be an overt sign of the lingering racism. We’ve seen it with the “President Obama is not very smart” meme (teleprompter-enabled) that has been circulating through The Village (DC hacks) and through rightwingers’ propaganda machines in general (yeah, FOX, I’m looking at you). This is a covert sign of the underlying racism that still persists in our country.
I have read it in many blogs, and not just from Republican supporters. The PUMAs out there bleat it as well. President Obama is just not that smart. He is an affirmative action candidate. He wouldn’t be where he was if he weren’t black. Yeah, thanks, Geraldine Ferraro for that early primer on how to be a racist when campaigning against Obama. In fact, the virulent racism from the Clinton camp is what ultimately tipped me over to Obama’s side. Yes, there was much sexism on the webs against Clinton, but I didn’t see Obama’s people engage as much in that kind of vile rhetoric. Clinton’s posse, on the other hand, pushed the lucky black man crap as much as they dared. Then, they got indignant when called on it and said Obama was playing the race card.
I am fucking sick and tired of racists being indignant for being called racists. Here is Ta-Nehisi Coates on his take of this subject. I’m not sure if it’s in that thread, but I really like one of his commenters saying that if people keep calling you a racist, maybe you should examine your behavior to see if it really is racist. In other words, the more times you’re called a racist, the more likely it is that you’re acting in a racist way.
Anyway, back to our prez. It would crack me up if it weren’t so appalling to read people write that clearly, the president isn’t very smart. In whose world would this be true? Believe me, I know from smart, and this man is smart. It’s even more appalling because the people who usually write that Obama isn’t smart can’t even properly conjugate a verb. It’s really hard to tell someone what racism looks like, but it’s incredibly easy to know it when you see it. If anyone says the president isn’t smart, that’s racism.
You can argue with his credentials. You can argue with his policies, his beliefs, his programs, and his rhetoric. You cannot argue that he isn’t smart. It’s especially egregious to hear after just suffering through the most idiotic president in my lifetime. Really, after W. ran roughshod through the White House for the last eight years, you want to claim that Obama isn’t very smart? In my not-so-humble opinion, that tactic is not very smart.
The reason this is particularly bugging me right now is because Justice David Souter is retiring after this session. He was appointed to the Supreme Court by George Bush the Elder, and it was assumed he would be a rabid conservative. This did not pan out, and he (Souter) was a pleasant surprise to embattled Democrats. Now that he is stepping down, the GOP and the Village are falling all over themselves to paint the white man as the poor, hapless victim.
Before Obama even has a chance to formulate a list, the Villagers are out with their pitchforks decrying the possibility that Obama will not choose a white man. In fact, Mark Halperin’s article in Time is entitled, White Men Need Not Apply–or something equally incendiary. I’m already fuming, so I’m not going to verify it or link to it. You will have to find all links yourself for once. Tweety has been bleating about a Latina being the cookie cutter choice. So, because of all this crap, Sonia Sotomayor, is being considered a forerunner in the field. Remember, this is despite the fact that Obama hasn’t said boo about his choice yet.
So, now that all this focus is on Judge Sotomayor, two inevitable memes have emerged from the rabble. One is that she is not tempermentally-suited to be SCOTUS. This is an accusation that is often leveled at ‘excitable’ Latinos and Latinas. In addition, women are often accused of being emotional. This is par the course. The second meme is that she is an intellectual lightweight, not suited for the Supreme Court. Yes, she graduated summa cum laude from Princeton in 1976, and yes, she graduated from Yale Law School and was editor of the Yale Law Journal, and yes she was nominated to the US District Court for the Southern District of New York by George Bush the Elder, then promoted to the appeals court by President Clinton. None of that matters, you see, because it was all affirmative action-based and nothing else. It’s the same with President Obama, don’t you know.
The worst, though, is the piece by Jeffrey Rosen in The New Republic, an ostensibly-liberal-leaning online mag in search of, well, a new republic. He wrote a piece entitled, The Case Against Sonia Sotomayor. Again, I’m not linking to it. Instead, I’m linking to Glenn Greenwald’s dismantling of said piece. In a nutshell, Rosen interviewed a bunch of people who anonymously said that Judge Sotomayor is too intemperate for the bench, and she is not smart enough. Even one of the positives he notes, that she is single with no kids, is twisted into making her seem weird. He concludes by saying that he hasn’t read enough of her opinions to know if she’s intellectual enough for the bench, but hell, that’s not going to get in the way of a good smear campaign, now is it?
The comments on all of these blog entries discussing this issue have been enlightening, hopeful, and infuriating at the same time. To the conservatives, Judge Sotomayor is only being considered because she’s a Latina. That’s affirmative action, they decry. Yet, Thomas was picked clearly for the same reason (conservative black man, take that, Dems!), and no one said peep. In fact, if you want to talk intellectual heft on the bench, you have to find a way around Thomas in order to do so. In addition, Roberts and Stevens were chosen because they were (and are) rampant conservatives. So why is it that only the Dems are excoriated on the activist judge issue?
Focus, Minna, focus. Ok. Here’s the thrust of the matter, as it were. So many of the people decrying affirmative action says it’s fulfilling a quota system or taking the job away from a deserving white person, usually a man. This presumes that the default position is one of the white male and that anything that deviates from this is because of affirmative action. In most of the online discussions about Judge Sotomayor, the term affirmative action is flung around. Yet, if you were to look at her creds without knowing her name or background, you most likely would be impressed.
There is another problem with racism/sexism, etc. Most people think that they are not racist/sexist. “I never called a woman a bitch, so I can’t be sexist.” “I never shot at a black man, so I can’t be racist. Hell, I don’t even own a white hood.” These are only really, really overt forms of racism, and the easy ones to spot. However, the subtle forms are much more insiduous and much harder to notice. That’s why it can be so frustrating as a minority because you are trying to point something out that the majority truly cannot see. They believe they have gotten everything they have on their own merits–conversely, if you haven’t succeded, it must be because of your own flaws.
Here’s a little story that I love. Orchestras have been traditionally overwhelmingly-male. Women were deemed too tempermental, too small, too whatever to be in them. This was ‘fact’ in the minds of many orchestra people. Then, there was a study in which musicians who were auditioning for an orchestra spot did so behind a screen. Guess what? More female musicians were chosen after this practice was implemented. Take a look at this article for more on that study and the effects thereafter.
Part of the ugly effect of an ism is that the person in the minority has to constantly prove why she (and I’m using the generic she here) is equal to the majority person. She has to prove that she is equal to, never mind better than her competition. She shoulders the burden of proof, and the majority dude gets off scotfree. No one talked about race or gender when Roberts was up for nomination, for example. Or Souter. Or Scalia. No one questioned whether being married (or not) would help or hurt a man. No one called Scalia intemperate, though he seems pretty damn excitable to me.
In addition, they were all treated like individuals whereas someone like Sotomayor is lumped into a group. She is in consideration because she’s a Latina, the Village people rationalize. Affirmative action does not automatically get you the job–it just puts you in the playing field. I got interviews because of affirmative action, maybe, but I was capable of doing any of those jobs. AA just got my foot in the door–nothing more.
As for being chosen on merit–please. Again, why isn’t that asked of any of the current justices? It’s been said that Scalia is brilliant, but there has been no scrutiny of this. He gets a pass on it. If I looked at his c.v., I am sure I could find instances when he wasn’t, ah, brilliant in a decision.
I know this is a messy jumble. Forgive me for that. I am so weary of the tenacity of white male privilege whining that it saps me of my strength sometimes. I am now going to make a bold declaration that you will rarely hear. Some people who are against affirmative action ask this hypothetical, “If there are two candidates who are equally qualified and one is a white man and the other is a woman of color, are you saying that the woman of color should automatically get the job?” It’s usually said in a tone reserved for one questioning whether or not the listener supports torture–no, scratch that. It’s even more filled with horror than in the latter example.
My response? Yes. If all other things are relatively equal, then the woman of color should be picked. Why? Because white men have had enough privilege up until now. Until THEY can prove they are a little bit better, I will go for diversity every time.
Last thing, take a look at the picture I posted. That is the 2006 Supreme Court of the United States. You tell me, who are the ones being unrepresented in the picture? Here’s a hint: It’s not white men.