Much is being written about Sonia Sotomayor's nomination for Supreme Court justice. I won't repeat all of that here. But some key phrases in the opposition's objections are all too familiar with what many of us women, particularly pioneers, and all of those who have suffered professionally because of racism and sexism have heard:
* "She doesn't understand" or "She would have to understand." I can't tell you how many times I heard that, the implication being that we could not understand the real (white male) world or the real issues. We would be too naive, uninformed, unintelligent, etc.
* There's the question of "temperament," which could refer to women's time of the month, their being too emotional, or too collaborative or not collabrotive enough. There was no right temperament for a woman to have. Too fat, too thin, too happy, too sad. A woman was never right for the position.
* "Angry woman" She an "angry racist." Do I need to comment on that one? All of us pioneer professional women were "angry" women or, "not showing our anger,"or...
* Closely connected is the issue of "empathy." Women are expected to be empathetic but it was and is often held against them if they are. They would no doubt make unfair decisions and show lack of objectivity.
* "Experience." Although Sotomayor's record is substantial, even amazing, "experience" for a woman was and is often suspect and not the "right kind."
* When you make a choice for diversity you are making a choice against competence. One again, that false dichotomy was said about me and about women whom I have over the years counseled. It is used way too often in matters of race. There was and still is an assumption that to choose a woman or a person of color is to downgrade the institution.
* She's brilliant. It's hard to debate that description of Sotomayor. But one commentator managed to find a problem with how smart she is. No doubt she lacks the vision of leadership because of her brilliant intellect.
* One former Republican candidate for president referred to her as "Maria." And blacks all "look alike." In this person's eyes so must Puerto Rican women. Never before, but after I was ordained and a "Rev." put before my name, I received way too much of my mail where the "Norma' has been changed to "Norman." It was not funny, nor accidental. It was thoughtless assumption that I must be male if there was a "Rev." by my name. Some people even made a point of "correcting" the address to make it right.
Now are these small things? Are they not the important issues? They are signals of the basic systemic racism and sexism that still exist. I'm deeply, deeply sad.
And I'm deeply pleased to call Sonia Sotomayor my sister.