Lawmakers who are no doubt familiar with Judge Samuel Alito confronted Sotomayor with claims – from anonymous sources – that she’s an ill-tempered bully. They “educated” her about the role of the judicial branch, asked her to expound on the dangers of nunchucks, advised her to quit the identity politics, asked her to repeat her “wise Latina” remark from memory just for the hell of it, and informed her the world is “bigger than the Bronx.” In a stupefying display of idiocy, Senator Tom Coburn invoked Ricky Ricardo – telling Sotomayor she “[had] lots of ‘splainin’ to do!” Members of the committee accused her of “reverse racism” and questioned whether she could possibly judge “objectively.”
Sotomayor was cool and collected throughout the proceedings. Her speaking style is almost startling in its calm, deliberate eloquence. She showed remarkable patience. She had to. She has most likely spent her life perfecting an air of coolheadedness, knowing that any deviation from which would be used as evidence of her “fiery Latina” temperament. Not that her interrogators didn’t try.
Sotomayor knows full well that she has to work twice as hard and be twice as qualified to be taken half as seriously as her white and/or male competitors. In a way, the disadvantages she’s faced as a woman of color have prepared her for the greatness she’s achieved – like a weightlifter building stronger muscle. Because of that, she poses a very real threat to the powers that be. Not all the PTB, though; bright, qualified white men have nothing to fear. But others, who gained power by virtue of having been born white and male and whose only talent is Bible-beating, stand to lose a lot when minorities and women are given a fair shot at competition in the public sphere.
Privilege can be a handicap that way. It allows those who have it to move through life without developing actual skills, intellect, or that most dreaded of qualities: empathy. Some of that privilege is reduced and suddenly their atrophied muscles are exposed. On the contrary, Sotomayor has had to prove herself capable, “despite” her race and sex, for years. WOC aren’t presumed exemplary; they must prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt. Regardless of what one thinks of her judicial philosophy, Sotomayor has done that. I admire the woman even more after watching the hearings unfold.