By Tamara on July 15, 2009

I’m baffled that some Republicans have viciously attacked Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

Too often I’ve heard Republicans talk about the lack of the so-called Protestant work ethic in minority communities and how if only poor minorities worked harder, pursued higher education and stopped depending on government welfare programs, then they, too, could achieve the American Dream.

But what happened when President Obama appointed the exact type of hard-working and ambitious individual that these Republicans say they admire — the pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps ideal — to replace retiring Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court?

Instead of applauding someone with Ivy League degrees from Princeton and Yale Law School, someone with 17 years of experience on the federal bench, someone with the highest rating from the American Bar Association, many Republicans have engaged in a smear campaign aimed at portraying Sotomayor as biased and outside of the mainstream.

Prior to this week’s hearings, the de facto leaders of the dysfunctional Republican Party, which includes former Speaker Newt Gingrich, political commentator Pat Buchanan and talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh, portrayed Sotomayor as a racist and radical judge.

At the hearings, Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, such as Sens. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, acted as if they had the moral high ground on the issue of prejudice. This is the same Republican Party that opposed many of the major civil rights laws in the past 45 years.

While the Republican members did show more restraint when directly questioning Sotomayor as compared to right-wing commentators, they still played a divisive game by harping on Sotomayor’s “wise Latina” remark, even after she herself had backed off it. Laughably, the senators attempted to portray themselves paragons of impartiality.

Something is wrong with this picture.

I hope most Americans will recognize and renounce the condescending line of questioning by these senators. It should not be lost on the American public that here we had a few privileged white men standing in judgment of a highly accomplished female member of a minority group that has historically been exploited for low-wage work, segregated in inner cities and treated as second class.

Sotomayor was absolutely correct when she said, “We’re not robots.” She explained what should have been obvious to the senators: “Life experiences have to influence you.” But she insisted that “the law is what commands the result,” not your feelings or life experiences, which a judge must put aside.

Sessions, who led the charge against Sotomayor, himself has a history of making prejudiced comments, a history that prevented him from being approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee two decades ago for a U.S. district court judgeship. For instance, he called white civil rights lawyers “race traitors” and said he used to think the Ku Klux Klan was OK until he found out some members smoked marijuana.

Maybe his own life experiences and prejudices have been influencing him too much.

The Senate Judiciary Committee and the entire Senate should confirm the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court. She has proven — with her impressive record and her calm and thoughtful presentation at the hearings this week — that she is eminently qualified for the job.

Alvaro Huerta is a doctoral student at the University of California at Berkeley and a visiting scholar at UCLA’s Chicano Studies Research Center. He can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

Copyright Alvaro Huerta

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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