Stevens Steps Down; White Men Clutch Their Pearls

Justice John Paul Stevens announced on Friday that he intends to step down from the bench of the U.S. Supreme Court, and the belly-aching began almost immediately.  The whole notion that White-men-need-not-apply for the soon-to-be-open seat caused cries of radicalism, presumably because a person of color or a woman in a position of power unbalances the notion that White men are the preordained, natural rulers of all they survey. I suppose this is what happens when you let a “master chameleon,” a “young, inexperienced guy, who is just mad,” live in the house that slaves built–the whole world just goes to hell.

Judging from the racist and sexist attacks that Justice Sonia Sotomayor underwent during her confirmation process, should President Obama dare to once again pick someone for the U.S. Supreme Court who is not White and male, the new nominee will certainly undergo attack. In this so-called post-racial world, we don’t see racism unless White men feel that their privilege is being challenged. And then, of course, it falls under the pattern of reverse racism because that is the only kind of marginalization that counts–even if it is only a figment of the imagination.

To date, there have been three women on the U.S. Supreme Court–Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sotomayor–only the last being a woman of color.  There have been two African-American men, Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas (we hate to write those on the same line).  And then there have been 106 White men.

If White men are looking for affirmative action in this situation, it’s only because they want to stake a claim of ownership over the Supreme Court.  Of course they believe they’re the best for the job, because they want the law to be interpreted only through their experiences and their privilege.

When Sonia Sotomayor commented, “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,” White men were quick to protest their own neutrality. If this were, in fact, the truth, the world would not reflect their biases and needs.  Glenn Beck on Fox quickly labeled Sotomayor a “racist” who is “not that bright” and “divisive,” while Rush Limbaugh chimed in with:

So here you have a racist. You might–you might want to  soften that, and you might want to say a reverse racist. And the libs, of  course, say that minorities cannot be racists because they don’t have the  power to implement their racism. Well, those days are gone, because reverse racists certainly do have the power to implement their power.  Obama is the greatest living example of a reverse racist, and now he’s  appointed one.

White male conservatives would like us to believe that simply because a few people of color hold positions of power, the balance has shifted. Nothing could be further from the truth.  People of color in those positions are a symbol that we have undergone some change, but a complete metamorphosis has not occurred–and, in fact, that is what the rage and loud outbursts of the conservatives are attempting to quash.

Glenn Beck suggests that Obama will now find a “gay, handicapped, black woman, who’s an immigrant” who’s a “radical” justice like Sotomayor. To that I say: Yes, please! The Supreme Court should be an accurate reflection of the population and not a platform to actively promote White male supremacy.

Image courtesy of flickr user Sam Ruatt under Creative Commons License.


  1. Excellent post. Oh, and, Glenn Beck…there are now words.

  2. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a “gay, handicapped, black woman, who’s an immigrant” on the highest court in the land? I think Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas and Kennedy would cower in fear!

  3. I just find it disappointing that the most qualified and just person isn’t the one who is really considered for the position.

  4. To be fair, a court comprised entirely of white males does not imply that they “actively promote” white male supremacy. Can they adequately represent people of other genders/colors/etc.? Maybe not. But they’re not actively plotting their demise.

  5. Aubrey, I’m not sure what you’re referring to, but I do think that “most qualified” and “most just” are both subjective judgments. From where I’m standing, given the conditions of our society (including racism, sexism, and other power imbalances), having the experiences of oppressed populations (such as being a Latina and a woman, in the case of Sotomayor) – on top of more-than-sufficient career qualifications – actually makes a person more qualified and just.

  6. Politicalguineapig says:

    Unfortunately, we all know that he’s going to choose the most conservative candidate he can find. Time to start looking into sterilizations again.

  7. Politicalguineapig says:

    I meant that if a conservative judge is selected, Roe vs. Wade is going to be overturned, and if that happens, they’re going to go after Grinswold.

  8. Aubrey, time to get over the fact the primary qualification for consideration to become a Supreme Court justice is no longer being white and male.

    There are brilliant legal minds of all ethnicities in our country. Being that the Supreme Court is the highest court in the land and the taxes of African American, Latino/a, and Asia citizens also pay for the upkeep of the Supreme Court building in DC, it’s past time that the court reflected the diversity of America.

    It’s also WAY pat time for some of diverse life experiences besides corporatist conservative white men be reflected in the Supreme Court’s legal decisions.

  9. snobographer says:

    During Roberts’ confirmation hearings, I don’t remember anybody questioning his capability to be fair and neutral based on his race and sex, like they did with Sotomayor.
    I hope they seat another WOC, at least.

  10. @Aubrey – why do you think the most qualified and just person won’t be considered for the position? Is there only one person out there qualified and based on your tone, do you believe that that one person is a white man?

    There are 94 US District courts (probably has a few hundred judges), 179 judges on the US Courts of Appeals, and countless other state judges. I am sure that there is a wide selection of people to choose from who have the qualifications to be a Supreme Court justice and I am sure not all of them are white men.

  11. Politicalguineapig says:

    I might point out that Aubrey might have been referring to the fact that Obama’s first choice will probably never make it through the filibuster. And even if zie does, zie will almost certainly be a conservative, because Obama just does not seem to learn that throwing the conservatives a bone DOES.NOT. WORK.

  12. Words I wish I’d wrote. Wonderful post…disgusting that there have only been 3 of us, and yet there is no doubt that there are women in this country who give credence to “reverse sexism” argument.

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