Tag Archives: political

Race Matters; or, the Judge, the Professor, and the Doctor

These are interesting times.

Judge Sonia Sotomayor has been taken to task for stating, “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.”  Her word choice is poor, but her point is that her ethnicity and gender carry with them a wealth of experience simply unavailable to a white man.

Can race, gender, or ethnicity be instructive?  Well, let’s examine the evidence.

In a recent moment of almost perfect poetic symbolism, the fine officers of Cambridge, Massachusetts, racially profiled one of the finest minds in Af-Am scholarship, a man who has been instrumental in creating a space in which the uniqueness of black experiences and voices is honored.  Well, now he sure as hell has had an edifying experience as a black American male that is not available to the white population.  Having been an academic long enough to know how their minds work, one of my first thoughts upon reading of Gates’s arrest was, “Wow.  Think of the article he’ll write after this one.”

Don’t get me wrong – I think the man is a genius regardless of race. But, his experiences as an African-American have shaped him into the type of scholar he is.  And, I’d be shocked if this latest experience doesn’t further shape his academic work.

And then we have Regina Benjamin, the nominee for Surgeon General, who is being criticized as too fat for the job.  Now, setting aside my immediate reaction of “Are you fucking kidding me?” for a moment, I do see the point that we need role models for good health.  However, a couple of photos of a plus-sized woman do not by any stretch of the imagination demonstrate that she is not a good doctor or role model.  Show me a grocery receipt with $78 of Twinkees on it and then we can talk about poor health choices.  For all I know Dr. Benjamin eats well and exercises regularly and would weigh a helluvalot more if she didn’t.  Last I checked, people come with different body types.

Oh-ho-ho-ho, isn’t it fun to characterize black women as lazy, stupid slobs who can’t be bothered to walk their empty tub of KFC X-tra Crispy to the trash can?  It’s uncool to call black women “Welfare Queens” nowadays, but calling them too fat and unhealthy to be good doctors is every bit as much about race and gender.

I don’t know Thing One about how it feels to be discriminated against for being fat, female, and black, but Regina Benjamin sure does.  I suspect that experience will serve her well as she tries to educate Americans on their health choices.

Does race, gender, and ethnicity qualify someone for a job?  Of course not.  Does being black or Latina in American make a person necessarily wiser or smarter than someone who is white and male?  Not last I checked?  Does it provide a library of experience from which to draw?  Absolutely.  To pretend otherwise, to try to simply ignore racial and gender identity, is to attempt to marginalize minorities by erasing the very bodies on which American society has been writing far more negative stereotypes for centuries.

Questionable Interrogation Techniques

            Far too busy committing war crimes during his two terms in office, George W. Bush never did get around to signing the War Crimes Treaty.  Now, however, there is a new sheriff in town, so I have sent him a little note:

Dear President Obama,

I am writing to encourage you to sign the War Crimes Treaty.  Actually, I’d like to you re-sign it, since we signed it once before but your predecessor decided to back out.  I think that the International Criminal Court is a very handy little institution and that the United States ought to support it.

United States participation in the International Criminal Court will make it much easier for those dudes over in The Hague to try George W. Bush for war crimes.  Should they have a hard time establishing that he committed any war crimes, let’s try some “questionable interrogation techniques,” such as waterboarding or sleep deprivation, to get him to admit his guilt.  After all, he has already proven how effective these techniques can be.

Mr. President, I know times are hard and that the government is kind of short on cash right now.  So, if you need donations to help fund George W. Bush’s flight over for his trial, I am happy to donate to the Haul George W.’s Butt Into Court Fund.  I think I may know another couple of people who are willing to donate, as well.

And, by the way, I think you are doing a pretty good job, no matter what people say.  Making those D.O.J. reports public was an act of integrity, which has been sorely missing from Pennsylvania Avenue for almost a decade.  Carry on, sir.

All the best,

Emily Rosenbaum

            Oh, yes, I did.  Please feel free to write your own note, or you can use mine.  I don’t mind.

Yertle and McDreamy

            “Is Georges Bush still the leader of the kingdom?” Zachary asked me last week.

            “He is, baby, but only for another week,” I replied, thinking smugly about how Yertle the Turtle ended up, turtle head deep in the mud and feet flailing about in the air as he fell from his perch of egotism and stupidity.

            Not long after, Zach asked another question.  “Why do we pick a new President?  Why does Georges Bush stop being President?”

            “Well, they have to take turns.  George Bush’s turn is over, and so we picked Barack Obama to do it next.”

            “I’m glad that Mr. Pain is not going to be President,” he went on.  “I’m glad they picked the smartest one.”

            “I’m glad John McCain isn’t going to be President, too,” I told him.  And I am.  I am glad that we picked a man who shares my values, a man I can trust.  I am relieved we chose a man who is smarter than I am, because I am pretty damned sure that I have no idea how to fix the problems we now face.

            You know, things like a collapsing economy.  Or, is it already collapsed?  I haven’t the faintest of clues how to prop it up again, and I am only too happy to put my trust in someone else.

            Plus, there is a bit of political upheaval going on.  Nowadays, you can’t throw a dart at a map of the Middle East without hitting a war of some sort.  I have no idea what can be done to resolve conflicts going back thousands of years, violence based in ethnic hatred and modern economic disparities, and I am mighty glad it is not my job to figure it out.

            Oh, and there are all those melting ice caps, plus two continent-sized flotillas of plastic out in the middle of the ocean.  I’m pretty content that I am not in charge of thinking about those things, too.

            In a few hours, Barack Obama will become President, right about the time I drop the boys at preschool.  Zach and I will stop and look at the clock, and we will note the exact moment that George W. gets smacked in the ass by the door.  He has left behind a colossal disaster, and I can only imagine how Obama must feel stepping right into an Oval Office knee-deep in offal.  People have awfully high hopes that he will be able to fix the economy, end the war(s), and stop global warming.  Theses are rough times for becoming the most powerful man in the world, and he must have a serious case of First-Day Jitters.

            I’ll leave the boys at preschool, relieved that they are someone else’s problem for a few hours, but before long I will have to come back and get them.  We can only hand the tough jobs over to someone else for so long.  The fact is that a good leader of the kingdom does not perch, Yertle-like, on our shoulders, looking out over his domain.  A true leader guides us in our work of cleaning up the mud that we would all rather ignore around our feet.

            So, welcome to President McDreamy.  I’m so very glad it’s your turn.