Some Old Business …

I know I’m way behind on everything, and I swear I’m about to get together a Bay Area Roadtrip post, but there’s something weighing on my conscience …


Sotomayor isn’t especially news any more – thank god! She’s CONFIRMED! – but I just wanted to take a moment to remember what kind of garbage came out of the Right’s unconscious when they were faced  with her for the first time.

Mike Huckabee launched an early attack on her, you’ll remember.  But he couldn’t quite get her name right.  His website tore into a certain … “Maria” Sotomayor.  Well, sheesh, he had a 50% chance of being right about that, didn’t he?  Maria, Juanita, whatevs!  Marisol on a long-shot, maybe?  Anyway, what business did she have of NOT being a Maria?

And, speaking of assumptions: the website Politico also was quick off the blocks to call her a “Latina single mother.”  Those hot tamales, you know.  Can’t keep their legs shut.  Another great guess.  Except for that pesky not-having-any-kids bit.

Then there was the name-calling.  She wasn’t very smart, y’know.  Jeffrey Rosenberg started that ball rolling – I hesitate to give this link, because Jeffrey Rosen gets far too much attention, but there you have it.  He started it and it became the chorus from the Right.   Yeah, not too bright!  Nothin’ like Dubya!  ‘Cause only dummies get full scholarships to Princeton straight out of high school, and only real dullards graduate summa cum laude and go on to Yale Law School on full scholarships.  And, of course, she was a bully.  She was uppity.  Interrupted.  Wouldn’t shut up and let the men finish.  I mean, she would ask questions in her own court!  Who the hell did she think she was?  Did she think she was the freakin’ judge or something?  Except for that pesky actually-she-IS-the-judge bit, another great line of attack.

Once the confirmation was underway, it got better.  Let’s see:

  • Limbaugh promised to send her a vacuum cleaner.  After all, isn’t that the only way God wants to see Latinas in the Supreme Court – cleaning it, after hours?
  • Creepy Repub senator Tom Coburn assumed the Ricky Ricardo accent to admonish her, “You got a lot of ‘splainin to do!”  Not after three beers in a bar mind you – On camera.  In session.  During the confirmation hearings.  Uhh …
  • And then there was uber-creep Jeff Sessions, who expressed amazement that Sotomayor had disagreed with another judge: after all, he pointed out, they were BOTH Puerto Ricans!  Of the Puerto Rican race, you know, which compels them to think identically in all matters judicial! And again – this was ON the record, IN session, ON camera. The mind boggles.

(BTW, here’s a 2002 article about Session’s history – some highlights: the Klan is OK, except that some of them smoke pot; a black U.S. Attorney was “boy” and told “You better watch how you speak to white folks;” he didn’t’ bother to investigate burnings of black churches in Alabama when he was Alabama’s Attorney General. And he has a job today.  Does the GOP make ANY sense?)

So, quick recap.

Sotomayor is really named Maria and has bastard children, as do all Latinas, and “cleaning lady” is her most appropriate job.  Like all chicas from the barrio she’s *slow* but God she’s got a mouth on her, for which she must be mocked in a parodical Spanish accent, and before we’re done, she’d better explain how she could have possibly disagreed with another Puerto Rican.  Ever.

Yeah, she got the job.  And I AM rejoicing over that.  (And I DO think that a Latina, if indeed wise, WILL make better decisions in some situations than white men – that’s simple bloody common sense, and jheesus, YOU KNOW IT TOO.) But I am disturbed over the crap this confimation process revealed.

Like Sotomayor, when I was in college, I had a senior professor make an object lesson out of me as an affirmative action recipient in a public setting.  My bastard was Clem Heusch.  Yes, Mr. Heusch, you’ve had a great career in particle physics, and your spine had its own urban legend (“If you put a Geiger counter by Clem’s back it goes off! Old lab accident!”).  But to me, you’ll simply forever be The Racist Bastard who pointed me out during a mandatory, departement-wide “Career Planning” meeting: “You don’t have much hope of a lab job unless – (points to me) – you know, you’re Native American or something, or (points to me) you’re a woman.”  I think that was the day I decided: Screw physics, once and for all.  OK, I’m one of three women in this room of sixty, I’m one of three who aren’t white.  And yes, if not for affirmative action, I’d never have gotten in.  But affirmative action only ever gave me a single chance at what economics and the realities of school districting had decided, before my birth, to deny me.  To me, the greater injustice is blindingly clear: the system which allocates resources so that certain children are methodically shunted away from any chance at education.  Because I wanted an education, I made the most of it, I sucked the marrow from its bones and it transformed my life.  Fundamentally and permanently.  And that education was a right that would, if not for affirmative action, have been denied me, plain and simple.

The difference was, Sotomayor, by the time of Yale Law School, was no longer an affirmative action baby.  If I may quote Wikipedia: “In her third year, she filed a formal complaint against the established Washington, D.C., law firm of Shaw, Pittman, Potts & Trowbridge for suggesting during a recruiting dinner that she was only at Yale via affirmative action. Sotomayor refused to be interviewed by the firm further and filed her complaint with a faculty–student tribunal, which ruled in her favor. Her action triggered a campus-wide debate, and news of the firm’s subsequent December 1978 apology made the Washington Post.

I like that. I tip my hat to that.  I just wish that “News of the Republican Party’s apology for its racist displays during Sotomayor’s confiration process made the New York Times” would be a future Wikipedia entry.

I have my doubts.


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