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It’s crass to mention race, unless you’re holding it against someone

By Amanda Marcotte
Wednesday, May 27, 2009 16:22 EDT
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One of the most fascinating things about watching the identity politics meltdown on the right after Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination is the blithe assumption that men don’t have a gender and white people don’t have a race. It’s the sort of thing people talk about a lot in abstract theoretical terms, but now you’re seeing it play out in real life.

Example #1:

“Judge Sotomayor is a liberal activist of the first order who thinks her own personal political agenda is more important than the law as written,” said Wendy E. Long, counsel to the Judicial Confirmation Network, a conservative group. “She thinks that judges should dictate policy and that one’s sex, race and ethnicity ought to affect the decisions one renders from the bench.”

And example #2, from Senator Inhofe:

In the months ahead, it will be important for those of us in the U.S. Senate to weigh her qualifications and character as well as her ability to rule fairly without undue influence from her own personal race, gender, or political preferences.

Of course, white men utilize undue influence, called privilege, of their race and gender all the time. But as the above comments demonstrate, people don’t see it that way, because we’re conditioned to think of white men as having neither race nor gender.

Like I said yesterday, I’m almost startled at how quickly the right moved towards race-baiting. You’d think that they’d try out a few other lines of attack before resorting to, “Fear the Hispanics!”, but no. I guess that means they’ve got nothing else to attack her with, which makes sense, because Sotomayor is coming to her confirmation hearings with more experience as a federal judge than anyone sitting on the Supreme Court had before they got their jobs. Of course, with the race-baiting, you’re going to get this disingenuous move of blaming the victim because she forced them to race bait by not showing the proper shame for being not white. Thus, you have one wingnut after another pretending to be shocked, shocked I tell you, that Sotomayor made a speech where she acknowledged that the different experiences of different people might have some bearing on what decisions they make. To find this offensive, you have to actually believe that white men don’t have a race or gender, therefore they can’t be influenced by race or gender. Which, as the above statements demonstrate, is in fact the supposition that’s being made.

But the whole act of acting offended that someone would be so crass as to talk about racism in America is just a way to say that Sotomayor’s race should be held against her, without coming right out and saying it. Over and over and over again, the assumption is that you can safely assume that Sotomayor is stupid, despite her years of experience and academic credentials, because there’s just no way a Hispanic woman could actually be that smart. The concern troll argument against affirmative action has always been that if it’s in place, then people who benefit have to suffer under the assumption that they’re undeserving. Obviously, said concern trolling is actually a threat. But there’s no reason to think that if there was no such thing as affirmative action that conservatives wouldn’t find another excuse to argue that Sotomayor’s race and gender should be reason enough to dismiss her as stupid.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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