The Unbearable Normality of Being White

Judge Sotomyor’s comments about her identity as a “wise Latina woman” has had the Republican party in a tizzy. Newt Gingrich declared she was a reverse racist and Tom Tancredo accused her of being a member of a Latino KKK. The conservative reaction to Judge Sotomayor, implies the supposed final arbiter of American law has never  had a racial bias. In reality, the Supreme Court has often worked to preserve white privilege

Conservative thinking adheres to the idea that whiteness is the barometer that all the other ethnicities. Whiteness is normality, invisible, a non-color. For example, Asians are seen as inscrutable and Hispanics are spicy, but compared what? Whites. The Supreme Court has been 98% white male throughout American history. In this paradigm, white males are the ones who have been are able to apply the law without bias. The history of how the Court has dealt with questions of citizenship strongly indicates this is not the case. Some of the decisions that prove that white men have been far more biased than one “wise Latina” could ever be.

The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, et. al.
This bill restricted immigration for Asians and were also prohibited the naturalization of Chinese. This act led to others that were not fully repudiated until 1952. The Supreme Court upheld Asian immigration bans through several challenges.

Plessy v Fegerson (1896)
This decision upheld the constitutionality of racial segregation, under the doctrine of “separate but equal”. The decision was handed down by a vote of 7 to 1. The highest court in America approved violating to 14th Amendment until Brown v Board of Education in 1954.

U.S. v. Bhagat Singh Thind (1923)
The Supreme Court deemed  South Asians ineligible for citizenship because U.S. law allowed only free whites to become naturalized citizens. Asians immigration from any country was not allowed citizenship until 1943.

Some may say that these cases are too old to be relevant. These decisions have contributed to decades of inherited white privilege and disadvantage for people of color. These laws must be considered when issues of immigration and discrimination are presented before the bench. The Court is currently deliberating an reverse discrimination case. White firefighters are suing the city of New Haven, Connecticut . Judge Sotomayor ruled against these plaintiffs in a lower court.  The court is unlikely to favor the plaintiffs in this case since conservatives like Scalia, Alto and Tomas have never voted for the plaintiff in a discrimination case.  There descions have made it harder to sek remedies for discrimination.If they voted for the New Haven plaintiffs it would be in direct opposition to all their other decisions. I hope that the honorable Justices take a look into the history of the Courts decisions and realize that whiteness does not equal neutrality.


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