…by Meg White
The place Meg puts the stuff she wrote
How Many ‘Every-Day White Guys’ Does the Supreme Court Really Need?
Categories: Commentary, Justice

by Meg White

If the only voices you have heard over the last couple of weeks were white male Republicans, you might be concerned that this country has all but abandoned the wise teachings of our founding fathers and the proud Judeo-Christian bedrock upon which this nation was founded.

Needless to say, that’s not quite the case. To make my point, I invite you to see the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Judge Sonia Sotomayor from a different perspective.

Let’s say the United States were the landing site of a vessel containing intelligent life from outer space. As countless pop culture references tell us, the first thing these aliens would request is to be taken to our leaders. Of course this would be undertaken immediately; but let us pause to consider E.T.’s thoughts at this time.

The alien would surely recognize that truly intelligent life forms who are allowed to choose their leaders would no doubt recruit the most able and intelligent amongst themselves. Using that logic, a tour of Washington, D.C. might be a confusing one for our intergalactic visitors.

Considering the fact that the majority of those in power seem to be white and male, an alien might be under the impression that females and brown people are much less likely to be able and intelligent. That, or it may assume such people are not quite citizens, being somehow ineligible to serve.

Applying such logic to the lack of diversity among former presidents of the United States, one might think that black people are some 2 percent of the population and that the nation doesn’t have one female citizen.

Looking at the legislative branch, the picture is a little bit brighter. Congress would convince an observer that around 17 percent of the population is female.

And finally, an alien considering the judicial branch would assume 11 percent of the population is female and black each. Nearly 80 percent of the population should be male and white when extrapolating from the highest court in the land, and no citizen would be assumed to be Hispanic.

An extraterrestrial being might have a hard time reconciling the lack of diversity in Washington with Americans’ professed pride in their melting pot of a country. Honestly, so do I at times.

In her column “Below the Belt” earlier this year, National Organization for Women President Kim Gandy made several compelling arguments supporting her call for Obama to nominate a woman to replace Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court. Perhaps most convincing is her astute deconstruction of the common call for the “best” or “most qualified” candidate (emphasis mine):

For those who say (whether they actually believe it, or simply think it’s what they ought to say) that they don’t want a particular gender or race, but only want the “best” judge or the “most qualified” person, I propose this thought: Unless you believe in the superiority of one race or gender, then you must agree that, over time, appointments of judges based on pure merit would result in some rough approximation of the population (at least the population of lawyers) in terms of both gender and race. Yet women are half the population, 25 percent of federal judges, and only 11 percent of the Court. Hispanics are 15 percent of the population, seven percent of federal judges, and none of the Court. White men are less than 40 percent of the population, but make up nearly 80 percent of the Court.

So, unless you really believe that white men as a group are twice as qualified as the rest of the population to make decisions about our lives, then there is an imbalance that is not based on merit or qualifications. And that needs to be rectified.

I’m not calling for quotas in Washington to ensure that the halls of power more accurately mirror the country at large. I’m simply suggesting that six “every-day white guys” like Sen. Lindsay Graham is enough. One “wise Latina” is not too much.

As Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy said in his opening statement at the start of Sotomayor’s confirmation hearing this morning, “She is a judge in which all Americans can have confidence. She has been a judge for all Americans and will be a justice for all Americans.”

Indeed, Sotomayor will be a justice who more accurately — and justly — represents this country. Her confirmation will allow women and Hispanic people to take one more step away from the category of second-class citizen.

This may be a difficult notion for some white males to accept, especially in light of the 2008 presidential election. But let’s keep this in perspective. Obama is merely one of dozens of presidents and Sotomayor is merely one of three women in the long, white-male dominated history of the Supreme Court. If Sotomayor does win her confirmation, there will still be six white men on the Supreme Court.


Originally published at BuzzFlash.com.

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