This is my final posting for the day, and I think it’s a good one. I don’t know what it is about Senator Specter these days, but I like this guy! Maybe I’m feeling a little ethnic (MOT) pride?Vodpod videos no longer available.
I don’t think I’ve ever said this before, but there’s a great Op-Ed from Jonah Goldberg on NRO today. It may not be to everyone’s liking, but I think it’s a really interesting treatment of the Sotomayor nomination and the idea of a national discussion on race. An excerpt:
It may go too far to call her a racist — not necessarily because she doesn’t fit the technical definition, but because she doesn’t fit the popular, emotional definition of one. She’s not an evil bigot, which is what the word “racist” colloquially suggests.
So maybe we can call her a “racialist.” She certainly doesn’t seem to believe in official colorblindness. Just ask Frank Ricci, the fireman denied a promotion simply because he’s white. He sought justice in her court, but Sotomayor couldn’t muster the requisite empathy to give him a fair hearing.
There’s a lot more to Sotomayor’s views on race that seems worth talking about, and her record is far from indefensible. In many ways, she’s a perfectly mainstream liberal jurist. All the more reason liberals should defend her positions openly, rather than dismiss or deny them.
Obama and the Democratic party indisputably share the broad outlines of her approach to racial issues. But rather than calmly defend her, they hide behind the robes of the first Latina Supreme Court pick and shout “bigot” at anyone who fails to throw rose petals at her feet.
And that is pretty much what liberals always do when it comes to race. They invite everyone to a big, open-minded conversation, but the moment anyone disagrees with them, they shout “racist” and force the dissenters to figuratively don dunce caps and renounce their reactionary views. Then, when the furor dies down, they again offer up grave lamentations about the lack of “honest dialogue.” It’s a mixture of Kabuki dance and whack-a-mole.
The irony of the current brouhaha is that the roles are somewhat reversed. Conservatives are shouting “racist,” and liberals are scrambling to explain themselves.
I’m willing to concede, happily, that liberals aren’t cartoonish villains for believing that certain preferred minorities deserve special treatment under the law. Unfortunately, too many liberals are unwilling to offer the same courtesy in return.
So here’s an idea. Let’s assume both sides have a serious and well-intentioned perspective and talk it out. Now.
Also, Dick Cheney supports gay marriage. What’s going on?
All kidding aside, Sessions appeared on Meet the Press yesterday with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy and was oddly unwilling to simply put into words whether he does or does not believe that Sonya Sotomayor is racist. Of course, the entire debate is 100% ridiculous and thus the mass participation on “is she/isn’t she” by both Republicans and Democrats is absurd, but it goes to a much deeper question that really has little to actually do with Judge Sotomayor. That is, how do we define racism in America today? Though seemingly academic in nature, the answer to this question has practical applications that go far beyond Senate Judiciary hearings.
In my first semester of college, I participated in a freshman seminar called (some variation of) “Historical Memory and Slavery of the American South” taught by a young, but brilliant professor named Seth Rockman. Having literally just moved from my home in North Carolina to Providence, Rhode Island to attend one of the country’s most liberal universities, I was unsure how I would fare in a course meant to confront America’s Master Narrative head on.
It was, for all intents and purposes, the worst academic showing of my life. I remember distinctly the first time that Professor Rockman explained to us that reverse-racism is an impossibility, according to his school of thought, as racism relies on a superficial power construct, ie what has been the inherent position of power held by the white community as opposed to communities of other ethnicities. The more powerful (in this case white men) cannot be marginalized through racism by the less powerful (everybody else, but in Rockman’s specific example African-Americans), because the entire racial construct was created by white men to explain the relationship between themselves and all of the “others.”*
At first, I was entirely unable to comprehend this concept in a way that kept me from being incredibly offended at the apparent inequality, but after weeks of argument I reconciled that perhaps the problem with so-called reverse-racism really is about the semantics. As in, when a white person says something offensive to a black person pertaining to their race it’s called racism, but if a black person says something racially offensive to a white person, though perhaps hurtful and unacceptable, it isn’t referred to as racism because calling it so ignores the inherent power dynamics that define what racism is. Words have certain meanings, and racism has a historically specific and significant one.
It has been a few years since I took that class, and I’d like to think that my ideas and reasoning on the subject have matured and become more nuanced (I suspect that the Professor and I have much to agree upon now), but even as I was the lone student arguing for the possibility of reverse-racism (a concept I reject after much further study), I managed to learn an important lesson from Professor Rockman: the words we use, how we define things, and the version of history we choose to tell all matter.
I hated Rockman back then. I thought he was too liberal, too empathetic, and too blind to reality. But he was right.
Oh, and if I ever run into Professor Rockman, I’ll have to inform him that after writing a (not very good) paper for his seminar tearing apart William Styron’s Confessions of Nat Turner for being the MOST AWFUL, RACIST tome ever, I proceeded to bookend my college career by writing my final senior year seminar paper for a Gordon Wood class (entitled “The Practice of History”) on the very same book. My conclusions four years later were starkly different.
* I have vastly oversimplified this point. There is much to be read on the subject.
I happen to like Sen. Jeff Sessions. I think he’s a thoughtful politician who, I believe, will be a much more tempered leader during the Sotomayor hearings than Chuck Grassley would have been. BUT (and there’s always a caveat), it’s quite possible that his astonishing resemblance to another American icon may confuse and fluster viewers at home:
After taking a short vacation overseas, and thus being unable to blog, I’m back! And it looks like I have a lot of news to catch up on…
An internal battle has been ensuing about what to discuss first, since really quite a lot as happened over here while I was watching World Cup qualifying games in Holland, but this small piece from Ben Martin on Politico.com is impossible for me to ignore:
Western Iowa Rep. Steve King:
This is an unconstitutional ruling and another example of activist judges molding the Constitution to achieve their personal political ends. Iowa law says that marriage is between one man and one woman. If judges believe the Iowa legislature should grant same sex marriage, they should resign from their positions and run for office, not legislate from the bench.
Now it is the Iowa legislature’s responsibility to pass the Marriage Amendment to the Iowa Constitution, clarifying that marriage is between one man and one woman, to give the power that the Supreme Court has arrogated to itself back to the people of Iowa. Along with a constitutional amendment, the legislature must also enact marriage license residency requirements so that Iowa does not become the gay marriage Mecca due to the Supreme Court’s latest experiment in social engineering.
Democrats, however, control the legislature, and their leaders welcomed the ruling.
Ok. 1) I support the right for homosexuals to marry as they please because I believe that personal freedoms and rights apply equally to all members of society, regardless of sexual orientation or anything else for that matter. You either believe in full equality or you don’t. Period. (And of course it’s worth pointing out that homosexuality occurs in nature, whereas our marriage laws were created by a bunch of guys.)
2) Are there any gay people in Iowa who are looking to get married? Is this a Brokeback Mountain kind of thing? Assuming that there isn’t a vast hidden rainbow-enrobed community, I don’t think Iowa has much to actually worry about from their own citizenry.
3) And as for Iowa as a potential “gay marriage Mecca.” It could happen….but I assume that most homosexuals would rather go to a state where they can marry while not worrying about being lynched by one of the most socially conservative constituencies in the country.
so, State of Iowa and Steve King: RELAX! Let’s say that gays start getting married in Des Moines. Best-case scenario: your state accepts their new position as one of the few moving towards greater respect for personal liberties and a true right to privacy. Worst-case scenario: the quality of food, fashion, shopping, the arts, etc in Iowa goes way up. OUCH.
Here’s the bottom line for me: In preface, though I do believe in a woman’s right to choose, I understand why others fervently disagree. They believe that somebody or something, depending on how you view it, is being irreparably harmed. They see abortion as murder and thus feel like this practice is not simply immoral, but akin to breaking one of the ten commandments and must stop. Again, I don’t agree, but the general anti-abortion view is not irrational.
But what about gay marriage? It doesn’t cause any irreparable harm to anyone or anything, except for potentially the traditional (and by that I mean post-Victorian) view of marriage, and even that argument is silly, both in general and in historical perspective. When gays get married nobody is hurt, let alone murdered, in the process, and there is no empirical evidence that allowing such unions is detrimental in any way to society as a whole. So, if you’re heterosexual, why do you even care?
And then again, if you are a really conservative Iowan (is that an oxymoron?) and just can’t give this whole gay marriage thing up, you can always take some comfort in the fact that there’s at least one segment of your population that definitely won’t be murdering fetuses….