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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

White Men's Objectivity

Why is it that white men think that they are the only ones that can be objective?

I must be honest, I haven't been watching the Sotomayor confirmation hearings, but I have been doing my blog reading about them. From what I have been reading, it is obvious that these hearings are not being as "objective" and respectful as they claim to be.

But one of the things that really bothers me is how they are focusing on her often misquoted "wise Latina" speech (which can be read here). In this speech she talks about the importance of embracing cultural differences in reaching decisions on court cases. Women and people of color have different experiences than white men and these different experience influence their court decisions.

Many far right wing-ers think that this shows her lack of objectivity and inability to reach "fair" decisions. But I'm right there with Judge Sotomayor. Realizing how one's experiences influence their decisions is important. For some reason, many white men think that they are the only ones who can be objective because their life experiences don't effect them. But they do.

Everyone's experiences effect the way they think and the way they approach an issue. White men's privilege effects them, even if they don't recognize it. On Feministing, Samhita says...

Session's attempts to grill Sotomayor on this question of impartiality reveals the obvious ignorance that when white men hold partial beliefs they are natural and objective, whereas when women of color do, they are unable to effectively do the job.

When women or people of color (and especially women of color, it seems) use their experiences as a basis for their decisions they are emotional and biased, whereas white men reach the "truth" through their experiences.

I think what these men are delusional of is that there is actually something called objectivity. I don't think objectivity exists. Maybe you can try your hardest to be objective, but your experiences will always influence you. Only people who have the privilege of not noticing their privilege (white men) would believe that their experiences don't effect them because they can reach the "truth".

(Note: I just want to make a comment that this is not all white men. There are many white men who work towards realizing their privilege and how their experiences effect them and the people around them. But it is usually white men who make these assumptions about objectivity and bias because these white men do not realize their privilege.)

In addition to the idea of objectivity within the hearings, the media is still attacking and misrepresenting Sotomayor. I just read a post at Shakesville about The Colbert Report last night. Normally I appreciate Colbert's sarcasm and satire, but last night he went too far. In discussing Sotomayor's confirmation hearing, Colbert placed Sotomayor's head of the clip Sharon Stone from Basic Instinct where she flashes her "nethers" during an interrogation.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Stephen's Sound Advice - How to Bork a Nominee
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorJeff Goldblum

This unnecessarily sexualizes Sotomayor and further demeans her to the point that she is seen as in a lesser standing than men. Why can't Sotomayor just be valued for her professional qualifications rather than focusing on her gender and race as some sort of "disability" to making effective court decisions.

I hope that the confirmation hearings will change in tone after the first day, but I'm not so sure that they will. Conservatives will continue to focus on her experiences as a Latina as a "disability" to her ability to be a Supreme Court justice and the media will continue to make jokes about her qualifications or straight out support the conservatives treatment of her during the hearings.

Note on the cartoon:
I'm sure many of you (if not all) have seen the cartoon that I chose to include in this post. While it is straight out racist, there is some truth in it considering the first day of the hearings. Conservatives are attacking Sotomayor because she is Latina, which I assume this cartoon is trying to say. While it is racist, it does portray how conservatives and the media are treating Sotomayor. But I'm not saying that I agree with the message that the cartoon sends.


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