Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

15 July 2009

More Sotomayor

Is it just me or is Senator Lindsey Graham a bit... well, dumb?

I was listening to a little of the Sotomayor hearings (I am in love with her, obviously) while I was driving around Los Angeles yesterday. First I heard Senator Schumer question her. He focused on demonstrating that Justice Sotomayor is not empathetic with anyone in a way that impedes her ability to decide questions of law based on the rule of law. The questioning was rather boring but it was pointed and intelligent (and had a very clear agenda.)

Then Senator Graham started questioning her. And I got confused. He seemed really upset that Justice Sotomayor was on the board of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund (PRLDEF). What he seemed most upset about was that PRLDEF has said in briefs (evidently quite frequently) that to deny public funds for abortions for impoverished Latina mothers is a form of slavery. PRLDEF and its lawyers obviously were interested in advocating to gain access to funding for abortions for poor women of color.

Graham seemed to want to trap Sotomayor into saying that she actually believed that such a point of view was an accurate one. He is not intelligent enough to actually trap Justice Sotomayor into doing anything, but what I don't understand is the issue itself.

How is this not an important issue of race? Public funds are issued to help people who are out of work because of injuries, they are issued to help women and men who lose their spouses, they are issued to parents with children who have disabilities. But what we don't want to do is issue funds to a poor woman who doesn't wish to have a baby. These are the same men who complain about "welfare queens" sucking the state dry. Why shouldn't these women have access to healthcare? Because they are not white?

Am I simplifying this issue too much by seeing it simply as an issue of race? It is also, obviously, an issue about sex. (Discussions of race almost always involve discussions of sex, I find.) This white man is afraid of the sexuality of these young Latinas. And he is interested in controlling that sexuality, regulating it. Because young women of color cannot be trusted to regulate their own sexuality.

This is racist and misogynist. There is really no other way to put it.

It seems to me, though, that it would be nice for someone to call the Senator out on his racism and blatant misogyny. There is a lot of discussion of race at these hearings—as far as I can tell this is only because the white men who oppose her are bigots—but it seems to me that all of these gestures toward pluralism are very silly.

At some point Senator Schumer was asking Justice Sotomayor if she had empathy with some black policemen who sued because they were discriminated against because of race and I was thinking: doesn't everybody? The answer, of course, is NO. Everybody doesn't have empathy with people of color who suffer discrimination. Many people in this country do not believe that we have a problem with racism here.

These hearings are just another example of the fact that we indeed do have a race problem in the United States, and that many, many people actually still think it is okay to hate people of color.

Okay, I am depressed now.