Thursday, June 4, 2009
Leading Republican commentator Newt Gingrich has retreated from his original assertion that Sonia Sotomayor is racist. He is now saying that he shouldn't have called her that, since it's just her words that were racist, not her. (By that definition, David Duke is not racist, either.) Maybe Gingrich is trying to appear more statesmanlike. Or maybe he realizes that her nomination is basically a fait accompli in a Democratically-controlled Congress, and he's just saving his ammunition for more winnable battles.
Of course, if a white person had said the equivalent of what Sotomayor had said, the mainstream media would be shrieking the R-word from the rooftops.
If Sotomayor is not racist, who is? There is nothing in her history to indicate that she is anything but a one-sided racial advocate. When she was in college, as head of Accion Puertorriquena, she filed a complaint with HEW demanding more Hispanic teachers at Princeton. At Yale Law, she co-chaired a group which demanded the same for that school.
Sotomayor has since joined the National Council of La Raza and sits on the board of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund. Both groups advocate affirmative action for Hispanics (and like all supporters of affirmative action, want those pesky little test scores thrown out). But Hispanics don't even have the same history of discrimination that blacks have: they were never slaves, and they were never the targets of Jim Crow or the victims of lynchings in the South.
What makes all of this even more ironic is that Sotomayor herself doesn't appear to have that much non-white blood. She looks more or less like a European Spaniard to me, although she could have some Indian blood. It's a little hard to tell because her features are swathed in fat. When people's faces become fat, it tends to almost disguise their ethnicity. Fat is not racist: it gives all ethnicities the same pig eyes and jowls. (Father Time exerts a similar melting pot effect: as people become older, and their hair turns white and their features sag, their ethnic look tends to fade, and it becomes harder to tell Swedes from, say, Italians.)
The most disturbing thing about the debate on Sotomayor -- and its subtext, affirmative action -- is its lack. People are simply afraid to speak honestly about the subject.
Imagine if we lived in a society where getting ahead in one's career was mostly a matter of physical strength, but that the greatest thought crime you could commit was "sexism." Anybody who dared mention that men were, on average, larger and more muscular than women, would be branded a horrible sexist, lose his job, and be drummed out of public life. It would be considered acceptable in polite society to make jokes denigrating men, but not women. Men's long history of subjugating women and using them for selfish reasons would be highlighted in every school curriculum. There would be large-scale programs in effect to guarantee that women got their "fair" share of jobs. Hollywood would constantly make movies showing athletic women using kicks and punches to dismantle large, threatening-looking men. (Actually, come to think of it, that part is true.) Whenever a woman would beat men at an athletic competition, she would receive lots of news coverage. Yet any statistics showing that the opposite was generally true would be squelched. Now everybody with any common sense would have noticed that reality wasn't quite as advertised; but they would also know that to breathe word of this was career suicide.
This is not so different than the society we have now, except that getting ahead is generally a matter of brainpower, and it's not sexism that's the primary thought crime, but "racism."
But what used to be called racism -- discriminating against an individual because of his race -- is no longer considered racist, as long as it's done against whites. What is considered "racist" now is to commit the thought crime of noticing average differences in intelligence and in crime rates between the races.
And Sonia Sotomayor wants to be one of the chief enforcers of this orthodoxy.
Tip O'Neill once famously said that all politics is local. (I'm not even sure what he meant by this.) He would have been more on point had he said that all politics is racial. (Whatever one thinks of crime and punishment, of welfare, of illegal immigration, of affirmative action, and of tax rates is likely driven by one's basic views -- and loyalties -- on race.)
Just ask Sonia.