Friday, May 29, 2009

Everybody's Got One.

I realize this has all been said before, but this really bugs me: Whenever a person of color gets nominated for something--be it mayor, president, or judge--people are always asking the question: Will they be able to do their job effectively without undue bias from their cultural background? It's a question that only seems to come up for the Sotomayors, never for the Robertses.

But why not? Roberts isn't raceless, he's white. He's not genderless, he's male. He has cultural biases and assumptions, the same as everybody has. But only minorities and women are called on to answer for them. Everyone else skates by because somehow "white" and "male" (and "straight") are the default settings for government officials.

But they're not default. No one's checking the "n/a" boxes for those areas. White and male have just as many cultural assumptions as any other combination -- and those assumptions are more insidious, because it's constantly implied that we don't have any assumptions or biases at all.

I don't know what can be done about this. I have no solutions, other than to be aware that this kind of double standard exists. And before questioning someone else about their cultural biases, make sure you have enough self-awareness to realize you have some of your own.



Andy said...

White, male, straight, Judeo-Christian is our society's default position. Everything else is alien.

Lets face it if Sotomayor were an openly lesbian atheist or Wiccan she couldn't be appointted and head of the ACLU.

Andy said...

Not that I think that that is good

Rob S. said...

I know, man. But that's changing, and it has to change more. (Heck, used to be you could drop the "Judeo" from your statement.)

I know I'm railing against history, but it really bugs me that white judges are considered "raceless" when everyone else gets the third degree.

Dave said...

Used to be that white Judeo-Christian was the alien invader who tricked, killed and all but eradicated the Native American way.

Might (and White) ain't always right.

It will not be too long until the USA is predominantly non-white. Perhaps in our lifetimes?

Greg! said...

I think part -- a large part -- of the root cause of this concern over the "cultural biases" of people of color, women, or any other perceived minority, is simple fear. It comes off as such a blatant double standard because it's easier and far safer to let it go at that rather than actually engage the question. The apparent implication that straight white Judeo-Christian males don't have any cultural bias is itself the shadow of the elephant in the room. And this unspoken elephant is one big pachyderm of self-interest. The existing power structures, and those who benefit by them, are worrying about one specific thing: What if this black/woman/faggot has cultural biases that don't favor me?

It may not consciously register clearly in those terms, but I think it's basically a fear of losing a privilege of position. The tacit implication here, of course, is that for a minority in any governmental position "doing their job effectively" means never challenging the legacy of the cultural biases of their predecessors.

Rob S. said...

You hit the nail on the head, Greg.

bastard central said...

roberts was leaned on for being a conservative. his potential leanings were also widely discussed and much to the surprise and shock of extremists on both side of the aisle, he didn't overturn roe v wade.

when clarence thomas was nominated, we made a bigger deal of the movie "long dong silver" than we did about his being black. and these days the collective calls him an idiot because lets face it, these days being conservative is the "new" stupid in certain circles.

we also picked though robert's life.

two more words;

robert bork

we have short memories as a socirty.

don't sweat it kids, sotomayor will skate right on through with a few little bumps and bruises that pretty much every justice gets on their way in regardless of color. besides, it only seems right politically that we have an even switch. it keeps the court from having the illusion of a bias.

Rob S. said...

Oh, come on, bastard: I'm not talking going after someone because of their policy positions -- that's totally legit. If people think Sotomayor is too liberal, they should make that case... not that she's too Latina. There was pressure on Roberts (and not a tremendous amount, in the scope of how these things can go) because he was conservative... not because he was white, or male.

This morning Gwen Ifill said it well: "I always try to take arguments like this and turn them on their heads. And I never hear people say that for a white male that it's identity politics if he is shaped by his white maleness, and by the things that affected his life, and whether privilege affected his life. That's never considered to be a negative. It's only considered to be a negative when ethnicity is involved, or race is involved, or gender is involved."

Hell, G. Gordon Liddy said this on his radio show the other day: "Let’s hope that the key conferences aren’t when she’s menstruating or something, or just before she’s going to menstruate. That would really be bad. Lord knows what we would get then." Did Roberts get that?

Dave said...

The word "menstruating" must have been invented by a man; otherwise why "MENses" and "MENstruation"?

I still agree with the saying "if men had periods, tampons would be free," even if it's untrue. (Look at all the crap that men are tricked into paying for - hair restoration, penis enlargement, Viagra, tickets to sporting events, and so on)

(keyword zondifin sounds like a new Merck or Wyeth-Ayerst product)

bastard central said...

whateves rob. just trying to put a different point of view. you wanna be right, be right

Rob S. said...

I know, man. And I'm glad you spoke up.