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Life in the Fast Lane -- A defining perspective (480 hits)

As an African in America, I am always challenged to define and redefine my worldview in response to the dominant culture. Recetly, Supreme Court nominee, Judge Sonya Sotomayor became the latest non-white person to be placed under a microscope regarding her perspective on her ethnic minority status.

We are all aware of what happened during the Obama Presidential campaign. The short version is that this crucible of attention nearly bleached all of the color out of him as he trid to define why he chose to be viewed as a Black man. The outcome that troubles me most is the notion that he represents a post racial "colorblind" worldview for people of color in this country. I disagree strongly with this conclusion, whoever holds it.

A couple of quotes from Judge Sotomayor's speeches capture the challenge and perspective for her as a Puerto Rican that we have known for more than 500 years as alien Africans in this country.

“Somewhere all of us Puerto Ricans and people of color have had a defining moment when we were shocked into learning that we were different and that American society treated us differently,” she told the National Puerto Rican Coalition in 1998. “The shock and sense of being an alien will never again, I suspect, be as profound for any of us as that first experience, because I know from personal experience that our education and professional training have equipped us to deal better in this sometimes alien land.”

In another 1998 speech, she said the United States was often ambivalent about how to deal with its diversity. “America has a deeply confused image of itself that is a perpetual source of tension,” she said. “We are a nation that takes pride in our ethnic diversity, recognizing its importance in shaping our society and in adding richness to its existence.

“Yet we simultaneously insist that we can and must function and live in a race- and color-blind way that ignores those very differences that in other contexts we laud.”

Basically, she is saying to the mainstream that they are trying to live a lie. She is being attacked for all the implications of such a worldview.

What is most troubling is that only those African Americans and other people of color who somehow gain a foothold above this crushing experience get to speak eloquently about our condition, and at the same time profess loyalty, pride, and a desire to lead this country.

So, now we have an African American President, and soon-to-be-confirmed Puerto Rican Supreme Court judge (sadly, Clarence Thomas does not count). America doesn't want to hear the perspective from a minority. The white mainstream doesn't realize that a "wise Latina woman" or "brilliant Black man" with the audacity of hope -- can make better decisions for all of us than white men who don't share their experience.

Roger Madison

Posted By: Roger E Madison Jr
Thursday, June 11th 2009 at 10:37AM
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I don't want to but I must agree. My logic says whos knows better than me. The color blind society may and rightly will never come. as ststed we are diverse and thats what makes us greater as a country. We assimilate all cultures to create a better culture. Understanding of this truth and striving to attain this place in the minds of all men and women are ...paramount. Color doesn't make you better or worse it just describes the way you look on the outside...Clarence Thomas...Grow with us.
Thursday, June 11th 2009 at 10:53AM
The thing that concerns me most is that many, and not just the majority, have bought into the idea that we are in a “post-racial” period, because an African American has been elected president, of which the defining feature is that we are now “color-blind.” Some have even gone so far as to further distort that by equating it with “King’s Dream.”

The Limbaughs, Hannitys, O’Reillys et al of our world are a constant in their hatred and bigotry, but what the post-racial premise and its attendant “color-blindness” does is give them an argument, actually more like a club, albeit false, to use to negate the experiences that Sotomayor spoke of that Roger quoted that is resonant in us, and cast that as “racist” in the minds of those in the majority who at least have been willing to support Obama’s vision, in spite of his “color.” This could end up being the two steps back following the step forward that was the election of an African American president.

This made me remember my own “defining moment,” when I was shaken out of my childish blissfulness and had the reality of racism slammed into me like a gunshot. It’s a hard and difficult lesson, one in which you are at once made to realize that not only are you different in the eyes of society, but “alien” in every negative sense the term carries with it. It’s a shock but one that also provides a perspective on the contradictions of America that, race aside, that others who do not experience this won’t have, especially those who are able to rise above it and turn it to their own advantage.

Given the fact that America started out in contradiction, that experience should be an asset and not the detraction that they have made it out to be in the case of Sotomayor, and by extension, all persons of color. The question is, can the white majority step outside of “whiteness” long enough to realize the truthfulness of that and how it benefits not just persons of color, but all Americans?

And that is what the Limbaughs, Hannitys et al, and the elites who control them as a carpenter controls a hammer, are afraid of. It is that realization that they have fought for centuries to beat back.

Thursday, June 11th 2009 at 12:38PM
Clark, your response is right on target. We ned to resist this "color blind" argument with every fiber of our being, and speak out as eloquently as you and others have -- including Judge Sotomayor.

Those of us who ARE the face of diversity must help our mis-informed majority fellow citizens understand our perspective.

Recently, my next door neighbor, who is white, said to me, "Roger, I see you as a conservative." She said that in reponse to my observation that I am a progressive political thinker and supporter of Obama. What was amazing is that this came as a surprise to her, simply because I live in the same neighborhood. She would probably consider herself as "color blind." What that generally means is that certain well-meaning white folks have "painted some of us white" in their minds because we may share some of the values that they have. What they miss is that our embrace of the same values -- integrity, faith, education, hard work, self-determination, upward mobility -- come from our very different perspective, but with a very different result.

We must not be silent about this. Thanks for your voice.

Thursday, June 11th 2009 at 1:45PM
Roger E Madison Jr
You lost me on the last few sentences Roger. Please explain.
Friday, June 12th 2009 at 8:48AM
I live in the same neighborhood. She would probably consider herself as "color blind." What that generally means is that certain well-meaning white folks have "painted some of us white" in their minds because we may share some of the values that they have. What they miss is that our embrace of the same values -- integrity, faith, education, hard work, self-determination, upward mobility -- come from our very different perspective, but with a very different result.

Friday, June 12th 2009 at 8:50AM
Mozell, What I meant was that many well-meaning white folks say "color blind" and what they mean is "blind to all colors and ethnicities but white." They substitute common values that any ethnic person can embrace, and claim them as their own. If we talk about "Black" integrity, or "Black" faith, or "Black" education, or "Black" hard work, or "Black" self-determination, or "Black" upward mobility -- then they accuse us of being racist. They will say we don't say these things are "white" but they fail to realize how distorted institutional racism has made life for the rest of us.

So, when they encounter someone who is not confrontational, they "paint them white" in their minds and assume that the person has adopted their version of the values espoused -- simply because I live in the same neighborhood and cut my grass and take care of my property and smile and greet them at the mail box, etc. So, they are shocked when they find out it is not THEIR version of these values that I embrace, but the BLACK version which rejects their brand of conservatism that actually claims a certain white self-righteousness that I find abhorrent.

I hope this helps to explain.

Roger Madison

Friday, June 12th 2009 at 9:46AM
Roger E Madison Jr
roger and all on tis site,I will say this: for over 400 years in America the color of our skin and gender has been used to DISQUALIFY us for office / equality . It in "my' opinion long, long past time that at least 'we' start using skin color and gender as a QUALIFER for the Supreme court!!!!!(smile) And, this still falls under my belief in do unto others as you want them to do unto you(your race/ethnicity encluded in this matter)
Thursday, April 10th 2014 at 6:47PM
The main stream media has selected to say that although judge Sotomajor said this 8 times she only used the White man once!!!They can deny that Clarance Thomas sat before those on the panel questing him how Tomas accused them all of trying to lynch him because he is a black man. If they like, I will gladly give them the tapes of those hearings...I am so glad I am a #1 pack rat and was doing a project on White women libbers and their part in putting Ms Hill up to this.And, in my research I found not one black organization playing a part in what ms Hill had done. At times we a a race do come together to fight for equality evne if we do not like the person we see going to make an advance ment in proving that blacks do belong on the Supreme court as American citizens!!!
Thursday, April 10th 2014 at 6:47PM
Oh, one last comment. When we took charge in owning the words Black and n*ggar the White majority once again stepped forward and said we could not do this. Only they said we could not use the "N" word. Now that we identify as Black they say that we now must be 'color' blind. I will not allow them to take away either of these. not from me at least.

Besides the right-wing has already disqualified Judge Sotomajor , because she is planing to come on the court not as a "blank slate", but with some of the influences of her single mother,non-white skin color, race, enviornment and ethnic / social / personal life experiences...(smile)HER BAD??????LOL
Thursday, April 10th 2014 at 6:47PM
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