Racism: Look whos talking

Right-wing commentators and politicians have been railing against racism. Have they finally seen the folly of their ways? Are they criticizing their fellow right-wingers for spreading racist pollution via talk shows and corporate suites? Sadly, no. Instead, they are attacking Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

Former GOP Congressmen Tom Tancredo and Newt Gingrich and talk show bloviator Rush Limbaugh called Sotomayor a “racist” because she acknowledged what everyone knows to be true: that people’s experience has an impact on what they do and think. In a 2001 speech, Sotomayor said she hoped that “a wise Latina woman, with the richness of her life, would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

The Tancredo-Gingrich-Limbaugh “racism” charge was so outrageous that Gingrich later had to back off.

Their attacks seem to be a calculated tactic to try to whip up a racist and anti-woman backlash against Sotomayor’s appointment and the Obama administration.

But the politics of hate and division are not working. The election of the first African American president underlined that fact. Polls show majority support for Sotomayor. While it should be obvious, it bears emphasizing that the majority of those polled are white Americans.

More and more, Americans of all races and backgrounds are realizing racism hurts everyone. Racism is more than a collection of individual prejudices. It is a system of keeping people of color socially, economically and politically unequal. This inequality is used to hold all working people back, as pointed out by AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka (see page 9).

And there are big profits in racism. Case in point is featured on our front page. Subprime loans and racist targeting of Black homeowners by the big banks hurt not only those homeowners but all homeowners, sparking one of the biggest financial crises in decades.

Sotomayor said in her 2001 speech, quoting Yale law professor Steven Carter, “In any group of human beings there is a diversity of opinion because there is both diversity of experiences and of thought.”

As Supreme Court justice, Sotomayor will reflect the experiences of a Puerto Rican working-class woman, bringing that vital “diversity of opinion” into the decisions that are important for our country for years to come.