6.21.2009

Sotomayor—reverse racist or whitewashed?


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During the past eight years the United States’ democratic lens has been severely refracted by the myopic dogma of the Bush administration (or Badministration). The institution of the Patriot Act, a declaration of preemptive war on Afghanistan, unilaterally declaring war on Iraq, blatantly disregarding the perils of Katrina victims, spying on citizens, and torture aren’t exactly positive examples of democratic process. To the contrary, the people’s vote against the Republican Party in 2006 and their vote for Barack Obama in 2008 are clear representations of the public’s sagacious recognition for the necessity of social reform. Yet despite their nominal devotion to civil service, there exists many public officials who defiantly stand in contradistinction to the same citizenry they profess to represent.

So when Newt Gingrich and his capricious socio-political ideologues fallaciously label Sonia Sotomayor a “reverse racist” in the face of majority public support I am not surprised. On the other hand I am intrigued by the ease with which such a fallacious and damaging notion can be caromed throughout the dynamic world of digital media and the lack of consequence to public image that would—and should be— marshaled by entrusted journalists to confront the promulgators of that notion. To be clear, racist is a politically ominous pejorative. But to employ the transitive verb reverse as an accompaniment to the afore-mentioned label brings a welcomed clarity to the extreme views of Sotomayor’s accusers. Perhaps Webster can shed a little more light on the subject.

Reverse: opposite or contrary to a previous or normal condition, that which is directly opposite or contrary


The operative word here is directly—directly opposite. To be a “reverse racist” you must be the direct opposite of a “normal” racist. Those who are peddling this birdbrained tag are making the accusation merely based on the fact that Sotomayor is a non-white. They are simpleminded. Now, racism as you know is the belief that there are significant innate differences between people groups which produce a superiority of a single group. Historically the group in question has been white men but I’m most interested in the actions that resulted from this obtuse ideology. The problem is that when you or I attempt to rightly divide the historical and present, systemic representations of racism— Newt and friends trivialize this unusually serious issue by means of politicization. But our focus is on the operative phrase in our definition—directly opposite. To determine what Sotomayor would have to accomplish in order to be truly defined as a “reverse racist” we must first identify the persona of racism and its historical and current impact upon society.

We easily identify racism’s persona by reviewing the treatment of African Americans by white male supremacists. These men practiced American chattel slavery during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Can you imagine being challenged to a race to financial autonomy—a race in which your competitor says, “There’s just one catch.”

“What’s that” you say.

“I get a two year head start” your opponent replies. Well, if you’re a person of color—if you’re black you don’t have to imagine. “Previous/normal” racists challenged you to a human race but cheated you out of not 2 but 200 years. White women were cheated for quite some time too—though they obviously enjoyed exponentially more comforts than blacks. The point is that over two centuries of free labor directly resulted in the development of white wealth. Then in 1865 slavery “ended” and African Americans were free to compete. The problem was they had no sweat suit, no sneakers, not even transportation to get to the stadium where the human race was being hosted. And they still had 200 years to make up.

Those two centuries of free labor encapsulate the irony that enables ignorant shock jocks to compare President Obama’s Supreme Court nomination to the hypothetical placement of former Grand Wizard of the KKK, David Duke, on the bench. And that’s not an isolated imbecilic oratorical incident. Former congressman Tom Tancredo, whose moral and civic compasses are obviously guided by caprice, had this accusation for Sotomayor.

If you belong to an organization called La Raza, in this case, which is, from my point of view anyway, nothing more than a Latino — it’s a counterpart — a Latino KKK without the hoods or the nooses.


Reader, this is a man who either has no regard for world history or is willfully ignorant of it. There is no Latino counterpart to the KKK. There is no Latino counterpart to American chattel slavery. There is no Latino counterpart to the remnants of that slavery— present day institutionalized racism. To assert otherwise is to revert to a sociologically injurious pathology of denial of white racism and its extraordinarily destructive impact on humanity. And I say humanity—not blacks—because oppression has a tremendously different, yet equally damaging, impact on the oppressor as it has on the oppressed.

Ms. Sonia Sotomayor has rejected 78 of 96 discrimination claims. That stat alone implies that, if anything, she is whitewashed. But she certainly isn’t the personification of this suddenly popular oxymoronic confabulation “reverse racist.”




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