Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Incipient Racism of Southern Baptists

Richard Land needs to be very careful. The incipient racism that flows so easily just beneath the surface of many southern baptists tries to rear its ugly head in his recent statement concerning the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court.  See Justice Sotomayor?—More for some, less for others?

He begins with a statement questioning the President's statement about most middle-class Americans not feeling particularly privileged.  Yet it does not take very much listening to black Americans living in the Bible-Belt or Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans living many places in this country to realize that racial discrimination is alive and well. And any time or place there is this kind of discrimination, more often than not, it is white middle-class Americans who benefit from it.

Next he parrots one of the major talking point of the right wing media about the president's pre-selection statements about wanting a judge with empathy and assumes quite erroneously that a judge cannot be both empathetic and impartial. Just for the record, a definition of empathy-the capability to share your feelings and understand another's emotion and feelings. It is often characterized as the ability to "put oneself into another's shoes," or in some way experience what the other person is feeling.  I can state from personal experience that you are much more likely to get justice from a judge who has some understanding of where you are coming from than one who doesn't have a clue about what goes on in your neighborhood.
Next he talks about the Ricci case as if she is solely responsible for it. When in fact, she was one of a three judge panel which unanimously upheld the decision of the district court and in the majority of a 7-6 decision that the case did not merit further review at the circuit court level. He also does not mention that the plaintiffs in the case were not all white, but white and Hispanic. If she is guilty of letting her "race" influence her decision, why did should rule against the Hispanics in this case. Maybe one should look at the Cabranes dissent as the one that was racially motivated.

And finally he continues to parrot the right wing talking points by taking her comments about "a wise Latina woman" totally out of the context. In fact he violates one of the clearest standards of interpretation by stringing quotes together to make his point. I have always given him credit for his bible study skills but wonder if maybe he also treats the biblical text so unfairly. For a brief discussion of what she meant in her 2001 speech, see Charles Savage's NY Times column, A Judge’s View of Judging Is on the Record.

I am not suggesting that Richard Land's objection to her nomination is racially motivated.  It is obvious that his objection comes from being in bed far too long with the radical right wing of the republican party. But the arguments he uses are certainly tainted by the underlying racism of the southern baptist convention. It began as a racist organization and, in spite of its proclamations to the contrary, continues to demonstrate that racism in the way it and some of its members relate to American society.

Far from being solid analysis as one reader commented, this is a hatchet job on an extremely well qualified judge.

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