History Awaits Sonia Sotomayor

July 12, 2009

The Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings for Judge Sonia Sotomayor's nomination for the U.S. Supreme Court offer a moment of powerful insight for white men who are enlightened enough to open their eyes and hearts enough to soak it in.

A lot has been made of a few comments that Judge Sotomayor has made over the years about the experience and insight that "a wise Latina woman" would bring to the bench that a wise man would not.  I'm fascinated by the umbrage -- feigned or real -- that her critics are taking over the suggestion that life experience, which is dramatically different from that of white males who have dominated every aspect of our culture for centuries, could lead to a "wiser" decision.  At the heart of the debate," as the Detroit Free Press put it, "is how race and ethnicity should be considered in public life.

The bottom line, as I see it, is this.  For centuries, white males have been considered "the norm."  Everyone else -- whether women or racial or cultural minorities of any group -- have been measured against white male templates.  Everyone else has been required to become "culturally multi-lingual" -- i.e. able to effectively navigate their own cultural cohort group's waters, as well as those intuitive to white men - in order to succeed in every professional arena.  The only ones who haven't needed to do much adjusting -- until now -- have been white males.  However, too many of them remain unconscious of this undeniable reality.  Men who recognize this truth and think about ways they, too, can develop the comfort and skills to reach out and operate effectively in cultures that are intuitive to women, to African Americans and to Hispanics, the fastest growing cultural group in this country, will open themselves to tremendous enrichment -- that just might make them a little wiser than they already are.

Here are two excellent Op-Ed pieces on the subject, through the eyes of an African American man, for the Washington Post, and an African American woman, writing for the Huffington Post.





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