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Removing the blindfold

In case you haven’t heard, it’s official now ‘“ it’s okay for a person to make racially-oriented comments about others as long as those comments are directed toward whites, especially white males. Don’t believe me? Then read the following comment made by Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals during a speech to a Hispanic group: ‘I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion [as a judge] than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.’ So what makes it ‘officially’ okay to say such things? Because, in spite of having made such a comment, Judge Sotomayor has ‘officially’ been nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court. So much for the concept of justice being blind. Now, it’s one thing for a sitting U.S. Appeals Court judge to hold such views ‘“ for the sake of fairness in court rulings, that’s worrisome enough. But for a Supreme Court justice to hold these views is simply unacceptable. Why? Because the potential negative impact of such overt impartiality is too far-reaching and long-lasting. Judge Sotomayor’s comments undermine the very foundation of our system of justice ‘“ that justice is impartial, unbiased, and without prejudice. My first thought on reading about Judge Sotomayor’s comments was that a ‘wise Latina woman’ wouldn’t make such a comment, especially one that was a U.S. Appeals Court judge. Next, I wondered what, exactly, was she trying to say. Was she saying that white males weren’t worthy of being judges unless they had lived her particular ‘life?’ Or was she saying that only ‘wise Latina women’ are qualified to preside over cases involving other Latinas/Latinos or non-whites? Who knows for sure? But one thing is for certain ‘“ such overtly racially-biased statements made in open forum bring into question her ability to render fair rulings in cases brought before her, especially if race is a factor. In fact, the Supreme Court is expected to soon overturn a decision of hers in which she ruled against 18 white New Haven, Connecticut firefighters whose promotions had been denied because there were no blacks in the promotable group even though the firefighters had passed the promotion examination. Next, I wondered what it was, exactly, about her ‘experiences’ that make her more qualified than white males? She touts the fact that she is of Puerto Rican descent. Well, okay. But what about Sam Alito and Antonin Scalia, both of whom are Supreme Court justices and both of whom are of Italian descent? Doesn’t that qualify or do Italians not count. In fact, Sotomayor’s ‘experiences’ seem rather unexceptional indeed – she never married, never had children, never served in the military, and I doubt she’s done much else besides be a judge. So where is this wealth of ‘experiences’ to which she refers? If ‘experiences’ are the measure of a Supreme Court justice’s merit, as Sotomayor suggested to her Latina audience (I wonder if she would have said the same thing to a predominantly white audience?), then maybe I should be considered for nomination to the Supreme Court. After all, I’ll match my personal ‘experiences’ against Judge Sotomayor’s anytime ‘“ I was born the youngest of six children; because they both lost their fathers at an early age, neither of my parents graduated from high school, having instead been forced to go to work; I put myself through college by working full-time, and I started college much later than most; I was once married and had a child; I’ve endured the death of a son; I’ve dealt with significant family illness through the years; I grew up caring for my grandmother who was paralyzed by a stroke when I was four; I’ve served 15 years in the military including combat rotations; I’ve spent years treating patients; I’ve saved lives; I’ve given the bad news to families when their family member couldn’t be saved; I’ve been to Third-World countries on humanitarian missions; I’ve worked in many various fields including agriculture, construction, retail, the restaurant industry, medical research, etc.; heck, I’ve even studied law; and I’ve done much, much more. Has Judge Sotomayor done any of these things other than study law? I seriously doubt it. And, yet, she believes she is more qualified than I am, based on her ‘experiences,’ to render a judgment. I doubt that, too. Nevertheless, in spite of her overt bias toward people like me, and the majority of Americans, Judge Sotomayor will likely be confirmed with little more than token resistance. Why? Because of the obvious double standard that exists in America today regarding prejudice and bias – that it’s okay to hold such views as long as those views are focused on the majority. But that situation shouldn’t be ignored nor should people of any group be afraid to speak out against such double standards for fear of being considered politically incorrect. Bias isn’t to be tolerated by any group, minority or majority. And yet, with Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation, that double standard will soon be embodied in the Supreme Court and the notion of justice being blind will come to an end as Lady Justice’s blindfold is removed.

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