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God, the insanity just won’t stop

By Amanda Marcotte
Thursday, May 28, 2009 0:27 EDT
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Update: Also, what Matt said.

Maybe it’s because I live in Texas, where there’s a heavy Spanish language influence on the culture, but I’m genuinely surprised that people are carping about Sonia Sotomayor’s name, as if it’s hard to pronounce. I can’t pronounce anything correctly, but I’ve got “Sotomayor” down. Obviously, the reason that Mark Krikorian is kicking up dust over this is that he’s looking for an excuse to race-bait, and he’d never do this to a white person with a difficult to pronounce name, even if it’s genuinely hard to pronounce. Like “Scalia”, which I still don’t know how to pronounce, which is my fault for being too lazy to look it up and not Scalia’s fault for having that name. (And that’s probably the first and last time I’ll compare myself to Scalia negatively.)

Sorry if my continued harping on right wing attacks on Sotomayor is tiresome, but I have my reasons. As a fellow member of the “people who have to constantly correct others about the pronunciation of my name” club, for one, I have to stand up for a fellow citizen whose name is easy to pronounce, once you know how to pronounce it. I’m also sure that Sotomayor has faced the same problem I have, which is people insisting that I’m pronouncing my own damn name wrong, that it just has to be fancier than it is. I’m also endlessly fascinated by the right wing attack machine, where they throw every fool thing they think of at the wall, and hope that something eventually sticks, and it often does. It’s interesting that a day plus into the process, they’ve decided to go with race-baiting over sexism in their attacks on Sotomayor, however, which is really fascinating because usually the rallying issue for conservative action and fund-raising around the Supreme Court is gender, which is struggled over through abortion rights. I suspect part of the reason is that the fundamental impetus behind conservative resistance to Sotomayor is the belief that Obama is an illegitimate President, which is far from a de-racialized belief.

My hope is that the right wing urge to personalize everything is going to be their downfall in this case. If they want to kick up racist beliefs about quotas and affirmative action, they’d better find a way that doesn’t involve these personal attacks on Sotomayor that rely on stereotypes of Latina women, because that’s just going to make them look like fools. Call her a temperamental bully, and you’ll find that her clerks are happy to rush forward and claim that she’s an utter sweetheart. Call her stupid and imply that she only has her position because of soft-minded affirmative action that puts unqualified people in certain jobs, and you’ll have to convince people that their eyes are lying to them when they’re looking at her long resume. It’s the same backfire problem that conservatives face when they try to deny that Obama is an intelligent man.

Of course, even using the affirmative action gambit appears to be too sophisticated a form of race-baiting for a lot of conservatives, who are resorting to variations of “how dare that uppity Latina uppity about like that” attacks, which is exactly what Mark Krikorian is doing by throwing a shit fit over the fact that Sotomayor doesn’t anglicize her name. In 2009. It makes you wonder if Krikorian is still trying to get over the fact that Desi Arnaz didn’t try to hide his Cuban identity when he played Ricky Ricardo. Of course, it’s worth remembering how conservatives tried to attack Obama during the campaign by calling him “Barry”. I don’t know what the rationale behind that was, but obviously the emotional appeal was to scare people about how “foreign” Obama’s name sounds. It didn’t work then, and it won’t work now.

I really can’t think of anything that has less of a hook than crabbing about the evils of cultural change and diversity. Sure, true believers love to hear about how the world is going to hell now that you can easily purchase tacos and hamburgers, or about how rap isn’t “real” music, but I just don’t see those arguments bringing fence sitters in. If anything, it just makes people laugh at you. For instance, on our way back from Minehead to London a few weeks ago, my friend and I stopped at a diner in this small town called Taunton. Someone had left a local-seeming newspaper out, and it didn’t take long for us to realize it had a more conservative bent. But even with this foreknowledge, I almost lost it when I saw a story griping about how kids these days can’t tell the difference between traditional British food and new-fangled favorites like curry and pizza. I kid you not—kids these days don’t have enough respect because they’d sooner eat a curry than some bangers and mash or whatever. Since my beans and toast were actually pretty fucking good, I shouldn’t have been making some of the vicious cracks I did about why kids these days might have very solid reasons for their culinary preferences, but when you read a story like that, you have to.

Seriously, that article is the first thing my mind went to when I read Krikorian complaining that Sotomayor pronounces her own name how it’s pronounced. The knee jerk hostility to ethnic diversity, the anger at people who don’t share your prejudices, the complete cluelessness about how stupid you sound—totally different subjects on their surface, but fundamentally the same story.

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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