Friday, October 9, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
Over the last few weeks, several conservatives have become visibly upset at being labeled racists for their opposition to President Obama's attempts to pull the nation out of near-bankruptcy and give health care to the poor.
I quite agree. Racism should have no place in the debate. And yet, what else can you call pictures of our black president as a monkey, a Sambo, or a witch-doctor? What else can you call Beck and Limbaugh's fear-mongering? Instead of shooting the messenger, it seems to me that these citizens should be mad at their own ranks. It was not liberals sending those e-mails, marching with those signs, or carrying those assault rifles. It was conservatives.
Many conservatives ask: "where is [the liberal] apology [for defaming honest dissent as racist.]" I know just how they feel. For some time now, I've been asking where the conservative apology is for labeling liberals "America-hating traitors," even when our dissent turned out to be justified. There were no WMD. We did torture illegally. Bush did lie. Imagine our frustration.
Opposition to reform is to be expected and welcomed. There are many conservatives who have honest disagreements, and America needs to hear them. What we also need to hear is a Republican denunciation of the race hate that seems to have infected their base. Instead, the GOP has chosen to further insult liberals as socialists.
Tell you what, folks of the right: you first. Reject the racists in your ranks. Apologize for your unfair characterizations of liberals. I'll be right there to make up after you do. Otherwise, all I can say is, welcome to the club of unfairly defamed patriots, and the slow dissolution of American civility.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
In our private conversations, Judge Cedarbaum has pointed out to me that seminal decisions in race and sex discrimination cases have come from Supreme Courts composed exclusively of white males. I agree that this is significant but I also choose to emphasize that the people who argued those cases before the Supreme Court which changed the legal landscape ultimately were largely people of color and women. I recall that Justice Thurgood Marshall, Judge Connie Baker Motley, the first black woman appointed to the federal bench, and others of the NAACP argued Brown v. Board of Education. Similarly, Justice Ginsburg, with other women attorneys, was instrumental in advocating and convincing the Court that equality of work required equality in terms and conditions of employment.
Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, a possibility I abhor less or discount less than my colleague Judge Cedarbaum, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice O'Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O'Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life.
Let us not forget that wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society. Until 1972, no Supreme Court case ever upheld the claim of a woman in a gender discrimination case. I, like Professor Carter, believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group. Many are so capable. As Judge Cedarbaum pointed out to me, nine white men on the Supreme Court in the past have done so on many occasions and on many issues including Brown.
However, to understand takes time and effort, something that not all people are willing to give. For others, their experiences limit their ability to understand the experiences of others. Other simply do not care. Hence, one must accept the proposition that a difference there will be by the presence of women and people of color on the bench. Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see.
Yoo touted the unique perspective that he said Thomas brings to the bench. Yoo wrote that Thomas "is a black man with a much greater range of personal experience than most of the upper-class liberals who take potshots at him" and argued that Thomas' work on the court has been influenced by his understanding of the less fortunate acquired through personal experience.