Eugene Robinson nailed it in his Washington Post column this morning on the first day of Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings.
Republicans’ outrage, both real and feigned, at Sotomayor’s musings about how her identity as a “wise Latina” might affect her judicial decisions is based on a flawed assumption: that whiteness and maleness are not themselves facets of a distinct identity. Being white and male is seen instead as a neutral condition, the natural order of things. Any “identity”–black, brown, female, gay, whatever–has to be judged against this supposedly “objective” standard.
I sat yesterday listening to Senators Jeff Sessions, Jon Kyl and others express their misgivings about and disagreements with Sotomayor’s views on objectivity, personal perspective and other such matters, and I wondered in what cocoon these men have been living. They truly do seem to assume that an objective viewpoint apparently embodied in white males is the default, and any perspective other than that is an outlier.
Too bad they could not have been exposed to some of the debates and discussions that have taken place in newsrooms over the last quarter century, as journalists tried to expand their frames of reference and account for events in their communities that seemed to defy explanation by reference to their usual experiences.
“Denying the fact of identity makes us vulnerable to its most pernicious effects,” Robinson wrote. “This seems self-evident.”
To everyone, it seems, except the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. It would appear that as far as they are concerned, denial has worked just fine.