The Republicans On Trial!

Jeff SessionsA redneck charlatan

 Notes on the Sotomayor Hearings

 Republican Senator Lindsay Graham from the formerly Confederate state of South Carolina – an ardent supporter of that famous hot head John McCain for President – had the unmitigated gall to lecture Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor on improving her “judicial temperament.”   But to all objective observers there could be no better example of a calm temperament than the stoic way the judge maintained her cool in the face of a constant stream of asinine and redundant questions put to her by a group of self-righteous and hypocritical white men – like that Alabama Redneck Jeff Sessions, who was rejected for a seat on the Federal Appeals Court because of his well documented racism.

I would have found it extremely difficult to resist the urge to tell them to kiss me where the sun don’t shine.  Most difficult to bear was the constant references to her comment that a female of Latin American origins might view the facts of a case differently – and judge them more wisely – than a group of white males by virtue of her unique set of experiences, like she did in saving major league baseball. They were also overly exercised by Sotomayor’s comment that racial, ethnic and gender diversity among American Jurist will result in different decisions from those rendered by an all white male bench.

This is an obvious truth and nobody except an idiot or a charlatan would argue otherwise. We need look no further than the court’s decisions on the question of race and Civil Rights, in order to see how the race, gender and ideology of a judge impacts the way they interpret the law.  In 1854 Justice Roger B. Taney,  speaking for the majority in the Dred Scott Decision, said “Black men have no rights that white men are bound to respect.” No court composed of black judges would have rendered such an odious opinion.

After a devastating civil war a radical Reconstruction congress passed seven civil rights bills and amended the constitution to extend full civil rights to African Americans.  But in 1896 the Supreme Court ruled in Plessey V.  Ferguson that black people must exercise their civil rights separately from whites: the infamous “Separate but Equal” doctrine.  No group of black judges would have come to that conclusion either!

Then, after many challenges in the federal courts, the Supreme Court ruled that “Separate is inherently unequal.”  These cases prove two things: Judges of equal competence can examine the same facts and come to radically different conclusions. And the racial, ethnic and ideological identities of the judges can determine how one interprets those facts.  The Republican decision to demagogue this issue is placing their philosophy of race, gender and rights on trial, and the public will render their verdict at the polls.


Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

July 15, 2009

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