Sonia Sotomayor’s autobiography, which I’m just starting, should contain a narrative of her time before the Senate when she made a remark about a “wise Latina”. That remark infuriated the Senators. My daughter asked me why. Here’s how I explained it.
Most of the Senators so enraged were Southern White men and elderly. They grew up at a time when the White Man was king in this country. Everyone else had to step off the sidewalk for them in the South, literally.
As times changed, these men felt their status, which rested mainly on this dominant-submissive paradigm, was threatened. One way to shield themselves was to deny they had ever had this set-up in our society. The fly-in-the-ointment was the presence of the submissive side of the equation themselves, in the form of women, Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans, et al. The polite way to handle things was for these submissives, known as minorities, to never show any awareness that they were minorities, that there was or ever had been a distinction made between them and the White Men. That way, no one brought up the ugly past, which often wasn’t so past, and the White Men could keep their faÃ§ade of innocence and lack of culpability while preserving what remained of their privilege, which was actually still considerable.
So when Sotomayor, taunted by the morons on the Senate committee with veiled references to her submissive status by joking about how she had “some splainin’ “ to do, echoing the old Ricky Ricardo goofy Latino image, referred to what a “wise Latina” might do, she punctured the faÃ§ade, declaring herself not only a minority but throwing right back in their faces the language issue by using the term unfamiliar to the cretins on the committee, “Latina”. Yet they knew what she meant. And it exploded in their antediluvian brains.
That’s what pissed them off.