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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Can you see in Sotomayor your own family story?

Listen up. Today, The Daddy is feeling Judge Sonia Sotomayor, a woman and Hispanic who lifted herself up from a New York project to become a top student at Princeton, one of the US top universities, indeed, to become one of the most respected judges in the country. In one sense, it is a story about the continuing difficulties that sexism and racism adds to the already-difficult tasks of becoming a success in the United States. It is the same old song of well-to-do white males who feel so superior, so arrogant, and so entitled, that they dare not cede any positions of influence, esteem and money to women or people of color. "Those positions," they pompously say to themselves, "belong to us!" So they get down in the mud and play dirty: play right-wing conservatives against moderates, centrist against progressives, race against race, gender against gender, religion against religion and gays against straights. They use statements out of context, deploy half-truths and outright lies to keep Americans divided and to maintain their entrenchment in the various corridors of power.

On the other hand, the Sotomayor story is an atestment to the resilience, sheer will-power, and straight-up stubborn determination to beat poverty and despair and make one's name in this grand experiment we like to call the United States of America. Let's face it: Sotomayor's story is not hers alone. It's truly an American story. She rose out of poverty and projects through hard work. She worked so hard and disciplined her god-given intellect so well that she became a top student at one of the best and most prestigious universities in this country. She worked herself up from low legal positions to become a highly-respected judge of an appellate court of New York. And now, she has been nominated to be a judge on the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land.

Okay, not all of us rose to be the top student in our class or were fortunate enough to have our hard work noticed and rewarded with promotion and an increase in salary until we were considered for CFO of a company. But many of us did. And some of us used our intellect and creativity to start our own company and succeeded that way.

Not to be outdone by the business sector, some of us became successful on our own terms. We decided to be successful not by accumulating fancy titles and highly morgagedt homes but rather by making a difference in our families and the communities in which we lived. Yes, we accumulated things, but we also helped folks along the way. But the formula was always the same as that of Sotomayor: Work hard. Continue to improve. Never give up. Isn't that the American way? Isn't that the America Sotomayor represents?

Family and culture

Judge Sotomayor says she believes that her family (especially her mother) and culture played a role in her development as a person and as a judge. In looking at cases, she checks her assumptions which arose from her family rearing and cultural experiences. Weren't we similarly influenced by our families and culture? And because we now live in a diverse society, don't we also check our assumptions which arose from the the culture in which we lived when dealing with people of other culture's as well? And aren't we a better people because we do?

Sotomayor and the Republican Party

Today, the Republican party is in shambles. Its core group, its base, is sexist, racist, anti-semitic and homophobic. Republican politicians believe that, to maintain their status in the party, or to extend their influence in the party, they must cater to this base. That means they must appeal, either in code or in straight talk, to these racist, sexist, anti-semitic and homophobic sensibilities. Unfortunately, that also means they must fight against the civil rights of gay people, rail against laws to protect minorities or classes it deems not a part of them, and do everything they can to keep women and people of color from attaining top positions in the American political system, including positions on the Supreme Court. That brings us back to Judge Sotomayor and the present argument against her: that she should not become a Supreme Court because she is against white males.

They speak of one poorly-worded speech in 2001 where she speaks of the value of her culture in shaping who she is, including her assumptions. Of course, they exclude her point made later on in the speech that we all must continually monitor assumptions that spring from our experiences in our work.

They speak of a case (Rici vs. Destefano) where white firefighters filed a lawsuit alleging that the court of New Haven, in throwing out a test that not many minorities passed, discriminated against the many whites who passed it. Judge Stoomayor, sided with the lower courts saying that New Haven was within its right to find a fairer test and thereby protect itself from lawsuits from minorities.

And of course they conveniently forget, 0r fail to let us know, about the Judy and George King case. In this case, the Kings claimed they were bumped from a flight to the Bahamas so that white passengers without confirmed reservations could board. They also said their own boarding passes were confiscated. The Federal Court ruled that such disputes were the legal domain of the International Warsaw Convention whose rules did not ban racial discrimination. Who wrote the decision? Judge Sotomayor.

The real deal

Instead of applauding a woman who transcended racist, sexist, and classist barriers to become one of the most respected and esteemed judges in the land, Republican politicians like Sen. Orrin Hatch are teaming up with right-wing pundits like Patrick Buchannan and talk radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh to criticize her as being unfair to white males. But by taking one speech out of context, by cherry-picking one case out of thousands to misrepresent her as racist toward white males (Can you believe that?), they are doing something much more sinister:

(1) helping to keep our country divided along racial lines at a time when Americans need to be united to deal with issues critical to our survival like universal healthcare and bringing back manufacturing to this country so we can be a prosperous economy again;

(2) keeping our younger generation from being inspired by the Sotomayors of this country, people who, like our parents, and our parent's parents, became successful through hard work, education, and a stubborn will power that would not allow them to fail.


Can you see in Sotomayor your own family story?

17 comments:

MadMike said...

This is truly a classic American success story. Although I don't agree with all of her decisions, I don't think any of us are expected to. In general she seems like an excellent choice for the court. The Republicans who hate everything Obama says and does, will whine and stomp and cry as they always do but in the end the president will win the day and this classy lady will be confirmed. Great read Daddy!

Solomon said...

Great story MacDaddy,

Oh, those white males are at it again are they. Sure is funny that when things are going their way they are turnin up the heat behind closed doors, and the minute something like this happens where they feel a sense of being threatened, whether it be either real, of percieved, then they take off the gloves because they say the other side isn't fighting fair. They have never fought a fair fight in the history of this country of ours, and they are the ones crying wolf.

CurvyGurl ♥ said...

Right on, MacDaddy! Yes, Judge Sotomayor's story is similar to many I know that have worked their way up despite the garbage thrown at them. I applaud all who are able to succeed despite the odds. Excellent post!

W said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MacDaddy said...

MadMike: Yes! And I love the way you call her a "classy lady."

Solomon: Thanks. Yes, these particular white guys-- these right-wingers and political gameplayers of the Republican are at it again. It's all about politics and party and control. They don't care about Americans or America.

CuryGurl: I miss you comingmy way. Good to hear from you again. And, yes, I,too, know many who started from scratch but went on to succeed. And some of them give back to the community from whence they came. I love em. Come again soon.

W: Welcome. You didn't have to delete your post to me. You said I shouldn't characterize the right wing of the Republican Party as racist, sexist, and homophobic. Well, you and I will have to disagree there. But your secondary point,if I understood it accurately, is that we should be careful about entire groups of people, because that, too, can be divisive. On this point, I agree with you. However, that doesn't mean we can't generalize when something happens to be the case. If some snakes eat rats, we should say so.

rainywalker said...

We each have a small footprint somewhere. Sotomayer is a wonderful example of hard work and putting your nose to the grindstone.

Villager said...

Powerful writing MacDaddy. I stand with Judge Sotomayor as well!

peace, Villager

Robster said...

Great story, MacDaddy. I definitely can see my own family story. Neither of my parents finished high school and I'm the only child in the family who attended college and received their degree.

Boy, did I have a lot of slings and arrows thrown my way during my journey.

MountainLaurel said...

Every time I look in the mirror. I"m not on my favorite chapter in my book o' life right now, but I'm anxiously awaiting the next.

Stimpson said...

Mac, I'll have to disagree about the GOP opposition to Sotomayor being motivated by racism and sexism. I say this because if Dubya had nominated a Hispanic woman, these same clowns would have been four-square behind the nomination. But even if the motivation isn't racist or sexist, the arguments have sometimes been appallingly so.

It might surprise you that as a white male in Canada I can in some ways relate to Sotomayor's life story. Like her and Robster, I too have parents who never finished high school and yet I went on to earn two degrees. And I didn't have to cope with racism or sexism as a barrier to my progress, but I sure as hell noticed the class differences between me and many fellow students who never seemed to notice what huge advantages they grew up with, and who commonly harboured prejudice and contempt for the working class. I say this not as a woe-is-me thing but as simple observation.

MacDaddy said...

Stimpson: Thanks for your perspective. It's funny. I just got an email from a friend who said the same thing you said: that the chief motivation is not race or sex but power. Actually, Perhaps I could agree that the chief motivation is power, the attempt by people with power or disproportionate influence to maintain or hold onto it. Well and good.But white Americans have been conditioned to feel superior to people of color in this country; and it shows up in the behavior of whites across classes. Black people know this, because we have to deal with it almost everyday. They can't be a part of a group. They have to control it. They can't be a part of a conversation. They have to control it. They can't be open to other cultures. They have to sift and shift it so it's about them...Black people's every-day interaction with white Americans teaches them that you don't have to call someone nigger to think of them as less than you. And, whether they will admit it or not, most of them like it that way. And I think American men, for the most part, have the same attitude.

I would like for this to only be my feelings as a result of my experience. Unfortunately, it's not. I talk to black people who say the same thing often. So, to me, to a lot of black people, it's not dislike for working class people (though that is certainly there). It's disrespect for people of color and women. Sorry, but that's how I feel based on what I've experienced.

But race and sex is a motivator as well. It is not just that they use race and sex to divide us. They believe what they say. They have been conditioned to believe that white males should rule this country-- should have all the top positions to assure that rule. Yes, they want to maintain power, but they want to keep that power in the hands of white males in this country. It's not just that they are against Obama's policies. They are against Obama. They want him to fail because he's not one of them.

But I want you to know that I can relate to what you were saying about coming from a formally uneducated family and hanging around people in college who had no idea how privileged they are. Same for me. Like their parents, they felt that whatever good things that happened to them, or for them, was so-so, because they were entitled to it anyway. Stimpson, hanging out them taught me to better appreciate my own less educated family and friends. At least they had positive values and integrity, qualities that can't be purchased but can easily be sold. Blessings.

The Joker said...

You tell it like it is MacDaddy, I can realte to everything you mentioned in your last comment.

Not belomging to the group that you associate with is one of the hardest things I'm encountered. It is crazy when I am associating with a group of whites, and I try to get a word in on the conversation they are having, lets just say I rarely get those words in. They do everything from speaking louder so that what I have to say won't be heard, and f I try to talk over them then, then they talk even louder. Then there is the one where one of them is talking, and I try to get a word in, and one of the other white guys will just cut me off before I even get started and take over the conversation. Basically trying to carry on a conversation with me and a group of whites is difficult at best, and most of the time they like to just make me feel like I'm invisible. They must have control at all times, even if they have to act like complete fools to do it, it is all about power and control for them.

And as for whites that don't know how god they have it, well I've run across this just about everyday that I've been sucking air. All the way from elementary school, when the white kids would band together and push us black kids around, to college when these same white kids have their education paid for by their families, along with rent food, and even fun money. These white kids were on easy street, and all they ever did was complain about how poor they were, and what a struggle their life was. I would scratch my head in bewilderment wondering how they came up with these ideas about how bad they had it. The thing is, they were comparing themselves to the Jones's, maybe they had one friend that came from real privilege, and they would obssess over that one person being more well off then them, so they thought they lived in poverty or something. They had blinders on, they couldn't even look around and see that they had it better than most, and how lucky they actually were. Then when they did see someone that was obviously less fourtunate the would make fun of them, or even pick on them, I suppose it made them feel better, but they never saw it for what it really was, life! They don't realize that most people struggle, and what they are experiencing is not struggle, it's just that they think it is in their twisted little minds.

I usually have something funny to say, but this topic is no joke!

The Joker

blackwomenblowthetrumpet.blogspot.com said...

Hi Daddy,

This is a wonderful piece.

I am so happy to see Sotomayor rolling with the punches and standing tall as a VICTOR!!

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!
Lisa

On an unrelated note, it's time for the Black Weblog Awards again! We need to see your badge in order to vote for you for "Best Culture Blog"!!!*winks*

MacDaddy said...

Lisa: I can take a hint...How do I get a badge? What do I have to do to sign up?

Charles said...

What's important is that we teach our children the truth about the Holocaust. If not, it could happen again.

I wrote about the Holocaust because I felt it critical to discount Holocaust deniers. These mendacious historical revisers desire only one thing - to finish that which Hitler began with the Jewish people. There are many vulnerable individuals whose weak minds can be turned into hatred of minorities. It happened in 20th Century Europe. It can happen again. If we had learned from the Holocaust, we would not have witnessed Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda or Darfur. Prejudice continues. Someone has to stop the blind hatred.

"Jacob's Courage" is a tender coming of age love story of two young adults living in Salzburg at the time when the Nazi war machine enters Austria. This historical novel presents accurate scenes and situations of Jews in ghettos and concentration camps, with particular attention to Theresienstadt and Auschwitz. It explores the dazzling beauty of passionate love and enduring bravery in a lurid world where the innocent are murdered. From despair, to unforgettable moments of chaste beauty, "Jacob’s Courage" examines a constellation of emotions during a time of incomprehensible brutality.

The worst characterization of the human experience is revealed through religious, ethnic, gender or racial prejudice. Only when we learn to value the differences among us will humankind move forward into a bright future. If we fail to learn this lesson, only darkness remains for our progeny.

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MacDaddy said...

Charles. I agree that we teach people about the holocaust. But you are not writing about the subject here, which is Judge Sotomayor. By failing to comment on her, you are dismissing issues around a fine judge and a fine person.
If you can't address the subject posted here, go somewhere else.