It’s 1988. Somehow I’ve managed to get admitted to the CCRI associate degree in nursing program. There’s a waiting list–perhaps my credits from attending the community college in the 70’s counted in my favor. I’ll never know why my name was chosen after just a few months.
I’m sitting in a large auditorium, there’s hundreds of us attending the lecture. We are an overwhelmingly white group, at least from appearance. The same goes for all the teachers. Two of the students of color are a man and woman I talk to on the bus from Providence, we help each other with the physiology questions on the ride.
Today’s lecture is cultural sensitivity. The professor clearly needs a remedial course herself. When I get home that evening I tell my husband about it.
‘The way she presented it was–My patient has a case of ethnicity! Omigod! What will I do about this? Is there a cure?’
‘Not only that–she actually said that some of these ethnic groups are greasy, and you need several changes of water to get them clean!’
My husband suggested that a good response would have been to raise my hand and ask the teacher to name the 10 greasiest ethnic groups, in order of greasiness. Ah, lost opportunity. He’s much quicker than I am, perhaps due to practice in dealing with racial prejudice from his earliest years.
Anyway, I was listening to the radio yesterday, and I heard Sen. Lindsey Graham claim that if he had made a remark equivalent to Judge Sotomayor’s ‘wise Latina’ remark his career in politics would be over. Then some caller said that as a private citizen his reputation would be ruined if he said something like that.
Well, due to the magic of the internet, there are billions of people who are knocking off from work to troll the public statements of anyone who makes such a claim, so Sen. Graham can stand on his record.
His colleague, Sen. Jeff Sessions has a long record of inflammatory racial statements, a few of the high points collected here.
But they are neutral, normal, regular guys. They have no bias. Sonia Sotomayor, on the other hand, has an obvious case of ethnicity. She has to prove that this won’t interfere with her ability to be an impartial judge. No, don’t look at her long list of decisions–that’s boring legal stuff. Look at one statement, for which I think she owes no one an apology. Because there is a double standard here.
The ambient prejudice in our culture allows a nursing professor to blissfully insult the few ‘ethnic’ students in her class. She doesn’t know whether her words hurt, she doesn’t have to know. But her students know a lot about prejudice–it’s a wisdom they could not survive without.
Each judge brings his or her life experiences to the court. This is law for human beings. There are nine justices, and each one will have a say–diversity is a strength. When there is no evidence of a trend to bias or unfairness in Judge Sotomayor’s record her opponents focus on her character. She has a case of ethnicity! Omigod- what will we do?
She also has a case of femaleness. A condition I share with her. This writer has experienced the double standard–where male is normal and female is the other. Where women are guilty of weakness and emotionality until they can prove otherwise. Where the regular guys run the show. All of us who have had to prove ourselves have gained a kind of wisdom, and this will be a good quality to bring to our country’s highest court.
For a link to Sen. Lindsey Graham’s claim that a remark equivalent to Judge Sotomayor’s would result in his being banished from public life, go here. There’s also Sen. Coburn’s remark that the Judge would have a ‘lot of ‘splainin’ to do.’ Golly, aren’t they cute.