White male privilege on display: I can’t watch the Sotomayor hearings

Let’s get this straight: I’m confident Judge Sotomayor could take anyone in the Senate on and kick their asses with one hand tied behind her back. But I can’t watch her confirmation hearings or even listen to snippets on the news.

I feel my blood pressure skyrocket every time I hear Lindsay Graham or Jeff Sessions’ voices. It drives me crazy. And because of yesterday’s 23-week OB check-up and my elevated blood pressure, I’ve decided it might be in my best interest to avoid any and all coverage of Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings.

But first…

All the hoopla surrounding Sotomayor’s confirmation is fodder for a feminist or critical theory class: the distraction with her talk of personal experience and empathy as crucial to fair legal judgment and the Republicans’ insistence that, coming from a Latina, anyways, she’s not being objective as a result and therefore, “biased,” and therefore, possibily unfit for the job. Forget her stellar education, stellar professional career, and stellar reputation within the legal community as well as her stellar judicial record- facts don’t matter to her Republican critics. Big surprise, considering the man-child they elected into office for two terms as President of the U.S.

Here you have the classic manifestation of overt white male privilege where what’s good for the goose- in this case, it was okay for Sam Alito to sail to confirmation despite conjuring his (European) ancestors when making judicial decisions- is not good for the gander- a Latina who speaks of her experiences of hardship informing her professional career and more specifically, her acknowledgement that our daily, lived experiences inform our daily, lived decisions. This is an idea white men specifically have a hard time understanding; white men, either in venues such as Congress or in mundane settings like your white boss, hold so dearly to the idea of “objectivity” as an attainable reality that they completely reject the validity of personal experience or the particular in the formation of knowledge (which in this case, is legal precedent) that they dismiss as “subjective” and “biased” the way of knowing which people of color and many white women just know because we live it. We simply do not have the power to disregard our personal experiences as knowledge. It’s how we survive and how we learn to navigate a world that is not constructed to further everyone’s best interest but instead, works to ensure the success of those who adopt white men’s way of thinking. For a white man to acknowledge that there are other ways of knowing, however, is to begin to dismantle the power that sustains their position of dominance (and there are white men who get this).

Moreover, this reeks of the discussion in critical theory classes when we grapple with the ways in which theory penetrates, or if it can penetrate, daily life: can theory meant to emancipate translate into daily life- does the solution proposed in critical theories make sense on the ground? Or does it ignore some reality that makes its solution impractical and perhaps insensitive? This, at its core, was the way President Obama taught law at the University of Chicago. He emphasized that his students in his con law class consider the ways the law affected people’s daily lives; it’s one thing to pass a law, it’s another to have to abide by it and the first may have unforeseen consequences on the second. This is the point all those white, drawling Republican men don’t get. Sadly, all they see is some brown folk out to get them- because this awareness is truly subversive to white, racist ways of knowing- rather than a consciousness that they have yet to achieve.

(Cross-posted at DailyKos)

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2 thoughts on “White male privilege on display: I can’t watch the Sotomayor hearings

  1. re: “…and the Republicans’ insistence that, coming from a Latina, anyways, she’s not being objective as a result and therefore, “biased,” and therefore, possibily unfit for the job.”
    BECAUSE being a white male is the only clean, PURE, unbiased viewpoint, apparently. the only sex/race combo that is like a blank effing slate. UGH. now my freakin’ blood pressure is going up.

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