Monday, July 20, 2009

One More Thing re: Sotomayor: It's Not About Bringing Down Whitey

By now we can all agree that Sonia Sotomayor aced the senate confirmation hearings, accepting high praise from the likes of Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and roiling Republicans like Senator Lindsey Graham, who is still in a nit over the Supreme Court nominee's "wise Latina" comments. Congratulations are in order, and yes, so is some celebration over the appointment of an unexpected (read: minority) though exceptionally qualified candidate to our nation's highest court. But, on behalf of Latinos and other minorities who are making it in the professional world, I just want to say that our mission is not to bring down the white man - regardless of Maureen Dowd or Frank Rich's misguided cheerleading.

Both New York Times writers have underscored the point that with President Obama's ascent to power and now Sotomayor's appointment to the Supreme Court, whitey is losing his grip on power.I don't see it that way, and I'm sure Sonia Sotomayor doesn't either. Did some of the senators in last week's hearings reveal astounding ignorance and insensitivity? You bet - especially one Tom Coburn (R-OK) who will go down in history as the guy who told the Supreme Court nominee "you'll have lots of 'splaining to do." I WISH someone would say that to me in a conference room, but that's another story.

Still, I would argue that the white liberal cheerleaders grandstanding on Sotomayor's nomination aren't doing much of a service to upwardly mobile people of color. It's condescending - though in a much different way than referencing Ricky Ricardo - because it smacks of "it's up to us white, enlightened folks to help out these blacks and latinos" thinking. In fact, these folks are antagonizing racial tensions that educated people of color have to suppress for fear of that proverbial "chip on the shoulder," or for playing the race card when things don't go our way.

As a Latino I couldn't be more thrilled by Sotomayor's nomination and her stellar performance in front of the Senate last week. She makes me proud! But I would respectfully ask that the celebration over a historic nomination tread a careful line that acknowledges the changing complexion of power in this country without making it seem like we're emerging from Apartheid. Not only is that an unfair statement about our country's system, but it reinforces stigmas that people of color have had to overcome in order to hold their own in the board room or in Ivy League campuses across the country - let's get the chip, and that dirt, off our shoulders please.

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