|Following a brief discussion of the politics involved--including the rise of anti-Latino rhetoric and hate crimes--Blow turns to look at Sotomayor, and to compare her to other Supreme Court nominees, using an individualist framework of racial attitudes:
Politics aside, what exactly did Sotomayor say that got everyone in a huff? In a 2001 speech she said, "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life." She acknowledged a racial bias. That doesn't make her a racist.
Why? Because racism exists along a spectrum. On one end is the mere existence of racial bias. Harvard's Project Implicit, an online laboratory, has demonstrated that most of us have this bias, whether we are conscious of it or not.
Somewhere in the middle of the spectrum are the conscious expressions of that bias in the form of prejudices. On the other end, at the extreme, are deliberate acts of racial discrimination based on those prejudices. That's where the racists dwell.
This notion of a spectrum is certainly better, and more accurate than a simplistic racist/not-racist dichotomy. But the focus on individual attitudes rather than the social matrix of power relations serves to submerge the vast majority of white power and privilege that's part of America's racial equation today. And, indeed, his characterization of Sotomayor's statement--taken out of context as it is--utterly fails to grasp how it is part of a positive, pro-active attempt to deal with that larger equation of power relations.
Still, setting those deficiencies aside, Blow goes on to make a powerful point. He first notes:
I have yet to read or hear of Sotomayor's acts of racial discrimination.
And then goes on to compare her to former Chief Justice William Rehnquist and current Chief Justice John Roberts. Rehnquist is well-known for drafting a memo for Justice Robert Jackson during the deliberations over Brown v. Board of Education, in which he argued that "Plessy v. Ferguson was right and should be reaffirmed." He was also involved in GOP anti-black and anti-Lationo voter-suppression operations in Arizona during the 1905s.
As for Boberts, who replaced Rehnquist in 2005:
That year, Newsday reported that Roberts had made racist and sexist jokes in memos that he wrote while working in the Reagan White House. And, The New York Review of Books published a scolding article in 2005 making the case that during the same period that he was making those jokes, Roberts marshaled a crusader's zeal in his efforts to roll back the civil rights gains of the 1960s and '70s - everything from voting rights to women's rights. The article began, "The most intriguing question about John Roberts is what led him as a young person whose success in life was virtually assured by family wealth and academic achievement to enlist in a political campaign designed to deny opportunities for success to those who lack his advantages."
Blow concludes his piece by saying:
Gingrich tweeted that "a white man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw." Make up your own minds about where Rehnquist's and Roberts's words and actions should fall on the racism spectrum, but both were overwhelmingly confirmed.
Until someone can produce proof of words and actions on the part of Sotomayor that even approach the scale of Rehnquist's and Roberts's, all I see is men throwing skeleton bones from class closets.
Yet, if one shifts attention away from the individuals, and toward the larger social context, the field, or cultural situation, something much, much stronger can be said--namely that Roberts and Rehnquist's actions furthering white supremacy were almost completely normalized. It was not just the two Chief Justices who acted in an overlty racist manner, the entire political system acquiessed and colluded to hand them one of the most powerful posts in the land. And this was done so matter-of-factly that many millions of racially progressive people do not even know that this was done.
It is this pervasive normalization of the continued exercise of white power, so without consequences that it is generally not even notices, that is the true indication of just how racist--or, more precisely, how white supremacist our nation remains. And it is only in the light of this blatantly white supremacy that the full absurdity of Gingrich's claim is revealed.
Indeed, taking the impunity of Roberts and Rehnquist as our benchmark, Gingrich's claim is not simply absurd, rather, it is both a reinforcement of the existing system of white supremacy, and a direct attack on Sotomayor precisely because her racial consciousness embodies a potential threat to that continued white supremacy. (Though not as much of a threat as I'd like.)
In short, Gingrich's claim itself is a racist, white supremacist act.
So, too, is his attempt to appropriate Martin Luther King and use him to attack Sotomayor. It's now time to examine the full email attack.
Newt's Racist Email Attack
Before I begin, I must underscore a principle point: one of the main points of looking at social context as primary is that overt acts devoid of specifically racial elements can nonetheless have profoundly powerful racial impacts. An approach that highlights social context will make the racist import of such acts plainly visible, while an approach that only looks at elements in terms of overt content will completely miss the big story.
Swampland has the email text:
From the Desk of Newt Gingrich
"I have a dream: that my four little children will one day live
in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their
skin, but by the content of their character."
- Dr. Martin Luther King
Conservatives have long used this quote to pretend that King was one of their own, as if they somehow had a patent on character. Nothing could be farther from the truth. King's conception of character is perhaps best captured in his speech, The Drum Major Instinct, as I discussed 14 years ago in my MLK Birthday essay, "Martin Luther King - A Different Drum Major", which began thus:
It's fashionable today to pose the theme of personal responsibility in opposition to the continued quest for social justice. We even hear Reverend Martin Luther King quoted out of context, as if judging people by the "content of their character" was meant to endorse the idea that some of us should starve, some should go homelss, and some should shiver naked in the midst of winter.
But Dr. King didn't think that the content of our characters was something coldly quantifiable, capable of being determined by the marketplace, like the price of pork rind or pig iron. When he spoke of personal responsibility he had a much more lofty view in mind: that we are each responsible not just for ourselves, but for each other, and for our collective redemption from the sins of our past that stain us still. He did not falsely oppose the ideas of personal responsibility and commitment to social justice. Rather, he saw the commitment to social justice--rooted in the Gospels--as a means for transforming mere egotism and blind ambition into engines of individual redemption--the crowning reward of personal responsibility.
Gingrich is out to use King's quote even more perniciously than how it was being used when I wrote that essay, but the intent of King's original vision remains as steadfastly opposed to the conservative hi-jackers as ever.
Can you imagine if the President of the United States nominated a judge to the U.S. Supreme Court who said this:
[A] "My experience as a white man will make me a better judge than a Latina woman would be."
[B] Or could you imagine if that same judge ruled from the bench to deny 18 African-American firefighters a promotion just because of their skin color?
[C] That judge would be called a bigot -- and in my judgment, rightly so! Would there be any doubt that he would be FORCED to WITHDRAW his nomination for the Supreme Court?
So, three things:
(1) As shown in my diary, "What Sotomayor ACTUALLY Said, And Why No Apology Is Necessary", in [A] Gingrich is, by analogy, completely and maliciously misrepresenting what Sotomayor said--so totally that it can only be considered an outright lie.
(2) As shown in my diary, "Ricci Ticky Tacky--More Abysmal Ignorance In The Argument Against Sotomayor", in [B] Gingrich is, by analogy, completely and maliciously misrepresenting what Sotomayor did--so totally that it can only be considered an outright lie.
(3) As shown in this diary, above, in the passages quoted from Charles Blow's NYT op-ed, in [C] Gingrich is claiming a standard of intolerance for racism that was totally absent in the confirmation process for both Rehnquist and Roberts, and thus this claim, too, can only be considered an outright lie.
Now, here we have an email that starts off with three massive lies, and then calls for the withdrawal of the nomination of the first Latina to be nominated to the Supreme Court.
Well, if that isn't racism, it will just have to do until the real thing comes along.
But, of course, this is Newt, so it only gets worse:
There are only two options for how we govern ourselves - by laws, or by the will of those in power. The rule of law represents objective, dispassionate knowable standards that are applied and enforced equally to all citizens regardless of their background.
The will of those in power represents subjective, fleeting standards that are never fully known by any and are applied purely to satisfy the wishes of a small, concentrated group in power.
Well, Newt is one of the prime practitioners of the GOP's governing by "the will of those in power," so he should know about that option. And as befits the megalomaniac he is, he will do everything in his power to tar others with the brush that's fit for him. But the reality is--as anyone should know--that the rule of law is an ideal we strive for (well, some of us, at least), and that Sotomayor's words as well as her judicial record can only be understood in terms of that struggle.
It's a measure of Newt's incredible position of privilege that he can speak so glibly of the rule of law, as if it were something that could be turned off and on with the flip of a switch.
True justice is blind. It does not consider one's religion, wealth, race or in this case sex, family origin and ethnicity. To do so would be unjust.
To put someone on our nation's highest court who believes these traits should be considered in cases before the court, would be wrong.
This flies directly in the face of decades of civil rights law, and thousands of court decisions, which recognize the necessity of considering race in order to determine if racial injury has been done. These are the words of a racist demagogue, pretending that simply closing our eyes will make all the pre-existing racial injustice in our land magically disappear.
Judge Sonia Sotomayor has proven, by her own admission, that she is such a judge. Knowing this, President Obama should withdraw her nomination to the Supreme Court.
Because her words and actions are in the mainstream of 40 years of civil rights law, Obama should withdraw her nomination? This is like listening to George Wallace, circa 1963.
Consider what Judge Sotomayor said about how her being a Latina woman will affect her decisions as a judge:
"I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."
You read that right -- Judge Sotomayor said that her experience as a person of a particular sex and ethnic background will make her a better judge than a person of another sex and a different ethnic background!
When did that view become acceptable?
As I clearly showed in my earlier diary, this interpretation is utterly false. White supremacists have routinely misrepresented the thoughts, speech, values and intentions of people of color throughout the ages to make people of color seem qualitatively inferior, and this is precisely what Newt is doing today. He is misrepresenting her with reckless disregard for the truth, just as white supremacists have always done.
If Civil War, suffrage, and Civil Rights are to mean anything, we cannot accept that conclusion. It is simply un-American. There is no room on the bench of the United States Supreme Court for this worldview.
So, not only is the white supremacist putting words in Sonia Sotomayor's mouth, as white supremacists have always done. He is now condemning her as un-American, and invoking all the struggles that he and his kind have bitterly opposed in order to reinforce that accusation.
This is, arguably, one of the lowest acts of political slander in American history.
The checks and balances between the three branches of government are designed to prevent any small faction of society from exerting undue influence over the rest of us. If President Obama will not withdraw his nomination, then the Senate has a duty to ensure that judges with who hold these beliefs are not confirmed to serve on the Supreme Court
SEND BLAST FAXES TO EVERY U.S.
SENATOR, DEMANDING THEY REJECT
JUDICIAL ACTIVISTS LIKE SONIA SOTOMAYOR!
Ah, yes. It's a constitutional imperative that only judges committed to overturning civil rights law can be allowed to serve on the Supreme Court!
There's more. Much, much more. But time grows short, and I need to share this and move on. So I will stop here. The case is clearly more than made. In the very act of maliciously slander Sonia Sotomayor, Newt revels himself as exactly what he accused her of being: a race-blinded bigot totally outside the mainstream of American law.
Now the only question is, will the GOP have the will, the nerve, and the desire to repudiate him, and have done with racism, once and for all? Or will they continue as they have been for the past 40-odd years?