Poor Race/Gender-speak from Obama’s Supreme Court Nominee

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.
– Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor, in a speech as quoted by the New York Times

Freedom of speech… just watch what you say…
-Rapper Ice-T, “Freedom of Speech”, from the album The Iceberg/Freedom of Speech…Just Watch What You Say

So here you have a racist. You might want to soften that, and you might want to say a reverse racist. And the libs, of course, say that minorities cannot be racists because they don’t have the power to implement their racism. Well, those days are gone, because reverse racists certainly do have the power to implement their power. Obama is the greatest living example of a reverse racist, and now he’s appointed one.
Talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh, as quoted in Media Matters

Yes… watch what you say.

Right wing extremist and talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh is apparently using the above comments from Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor to paint the narrative that the Judge is racist. I doubt that charge will stick, but this is a cautionary tale about watching what you say in matters concerning gender and ethnicity.

Judge Sotomayor, whose family is from Puerto Rico, made those comments while giving a speech about diversity in the Judiciary.

And certainly, there is value in having diversity in the American Judiciary, as with the rest of American society. That value was certainly a factor in her being selected by President Barack Obama to fill the Supreme Court seat of retiring Justice David Souter.

The sentiment in Judge Sotomayor’s comment was well-intentioned, and not at all vile or pernicious. But it does violate one of the rules of talking about ethnicity, gender, and race: never say one group is better at doing something than another. And as a corollary: never say that being in one group somehow makes you better at doing something than a person of another group.

Just imagine if a white person had said: “Being white, I feel that I can adjudicate lots of cases better than non-whites, who don’t have my breadth of experience.” That would set off some fireworks, and deservedly so.

Again, I doubt that the Sotomayor’s faux pas will derail her placement on the Supreme Court, Limbaugh’s comments notwithstanding. She has a solid resumé and more than enough experience. But it does show that if you’re a public official in any kind of setting, you need stay aware of the rules and etiquette associated with comments on gender or ethnicity. Failure to do creates grist for the mill of the haters, and that’s certainly not helpful for career advancement.
***

UPDATE: A story in the New York Times reports:

The White House said Friday (5/29/09) that Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court vacancy, used a poor choice of words in a speech eight years ago when she suggested that a Latina judge would reach a better conclusion than a white male judge who doesn’t have the same life experiences.

“I think she’d say that her word choice in 2001 was poor, that she was simply making the point that personal experience are relevant for the process of the judging,” said Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary.

I think this is a good move from the White House. By admitting it was a bad choice of words, they’re no longer in the position of having to “defend” the comment. And it shows the White House has some sensitivity (empathy?) for the concerns that have been raised about the comment.

This won’t make the controversy go away, though. Her comments will be a point of contention until her confirmation, and maybe beyond.

Advertisements

Obama: I Wouldn’t Have Nominated Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court

Barack Obama is being interviewed at the values forum of Saddleback Church in Orange County, California. Rick Warren, the Church’s pastor, asked Obama which current Supreme Court Justice he would not have nominated.

Obama’s response: “I would not have nominated Clarence Thomas.” Obama said Thomas was not a “strong legal thinker.” Wow. It’s almost like Obama was implying that Thomas was the affirmative action appointee to the Court!

Interestingly enough, the audience applauded Obama’s comment.

Continue reading

Outmanned and Outgunned: The Supreme Court’s Cruel Joke on Black America – Part 2

From Outmanned and Outgunned: The Supreme Court’s Cruel Joke on Black America – Part 1:

“Gun control has not worked in D.C. The only people who have guns are criminals. We have the strictest gun laws in the nation and one of the highest murder rates. It’s quicker to pull your Smith & Wesson than to dial 911 if you’re being robbed.” – Lowell Duckett

“Our neighbors in Virginia are just as responsible for these killings as the criminals are because they won’t pass strong gun [control] legislation.” – former Washington, DC mayor Marion Barry.

“A teenager is more likely to die from a gunshot than from all natural causes of death combined. This is unacceptable in America.” – President George W. Bush, 2001


1980s-2000s The scourge of Black on Black Crime comes to the forefront of American consciousness, and the doorsteps of African American neighborhoods. The Brady Center notes the chilling statistics in GUN VIOLENCE IN THE AFRICAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY:

Gun violence is a priority issue for African-Americans and other minorities. Nearly 350,000 Americans were victims to murders, robberies, and aggravated assaults in 2003 committed by perpetrators carrying a firearm, and our minority communities are the hardest hit:
• In 2002, firearm homicide was the number one cause of death for 15-34 year old African-Americans.
• In 2002, the firearm death rate for African-Americans was over twice that of whites.
• In 2002, an African-American male under age 30 was nearly 9 times more likely to be murdered than a white male under age 30.
• In 2003, 91 percent of African-American murder victims were slain by African-American offenders.
• In 2002, African-American males accounted for 47 percent of all homicide victims, while they only account for 6 percent of the entire population.
• Firearms have become the predominant method of suicide for African-Americans aged 10-19 years, accounting for 64 percent of suicides in 2002.
— June 2005

2008 The Supreme Court, in the case of Heller vs the District of Columbia, strikes down the District’s gun ban law.


As noted in Part 1 of this two part series, the history and guns and African Americans is clear: for much of our country’s history, through acts of omission or commission, the Supreme Court was a willing participant in creating an environment where whites could terrorize blacks, in a manner that left blacks unable to defend themselves.

That was then, this is now. What should be today’s stance on guns in the African American community?

Continue reading

Outmanned and Outgunned: The Supreme Court’s Cruel Joke on Black America – Part 1

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. – Second Amendment to the US Constitution

“The great object is, that every man be armed. […] Every one who is able may have a gun.” – Patrick Henry

“Gun control has not worked in D.C. The only people who have guns are criminals. We have the strictest gun laws in the nation and one of the highest murder rates. It’s quicker to pull your Smith & Wesson than to dial 911 if you’re being robbed.” – Lowell Duckett

“Our neighbors in Virginia are just as responsible for these killings as the criminals are because they won’t pass strong gun [control] legislation.” – former Washington, DC mayor Marion Barry.

“To make inexpensive guns impossible to get is to say that you’re putting a money test on getting a gun. It’s racism in its worst form.” – Roy Innis

“So Huey (Newton) says, “We’re going to the (California state) Capitol… they’re trying to pass a law against our guns, and we’re going to the Capitol steps. We’re going to take the best Panthers we got and we’re going to the Capitol steps with our guns and forces, loaded down to the gills. And we’re going to read a message to the world, because the press is always up there. They’ll listen to the message, and they’ll probably blast it all across this country. I know, I know they’ll blast it all the way across California. We’ve got to get a message over to the people.” ” – Bobby Seale on the Black Panthers armed protest in Sacramento in May, 1967.

“The end move in politics is always to pick up a gun.” – Richard Buckminster Fuller

History and time have a way of telling cruel jokes. So it is with the recent Supreme Court decision overturning the restictive gun ban in Washington, DC.

When black folks were outmanned and outgunned during the slavery, Reconstruction and Jim Crow eras, various Supreme Court decisions left blacks defenseless against a tide of white terrorism. But now that black communities are awash in a wave of black on black crime, the Supreme Court accepts and rules on a case concerning the right to bear arms.

It is the cruelest of ironies. Before I go further, consider this admittedly self-serving timeline of the history of blacks and guns:

Continue reading