Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Ending of a Career

Yesterday, after I posted a quote from Eugene Robinson's Washington Post op-ed, I began to revisit it. There was another line in Robinson's piece that bothered me when I first read it, and continued to niggle at me through the night. It was this one:
But when he brought up the "wise Latina" remark, as the GOP playbook apparently required, Graham said that "if I had said anything remotely like that, my career would have been over."

That's true.
The reason the line, and Robinson's acquiescence regarding its truthiness, bothers me is because I don't really think it is true. Senator Graham's career may have been over had he uttered a similar line. I'd be willing to bet his senatorial career would have suffered. But I'm not entirely sure if Senator Lindsey Graham would actually lose his Senate seat, or if his career would be over. And the reason why is because of Senator Jeff Sessions. Sessions has said some pretty boneheaded things. I would be willing to step away from the rule I generally follow, the rule outlined by the incredible Jay Smooth, of pointing out racist behavior without calling the person in question an out and out racist. I'm willing to lay it down that Jeff Sessions is, in point of fact, a racist. I'm willing to lay it down because due to his comments about the NAACP and the ACLU, and the comments he allegedly made regarding a white civil rights attorney being a "race traitor". And while Jeff Sessions didn't get the federal judgeship he was nominated for because of his comments, he has hardly become a pariah in society. His career has not been destroyed.

That is the problem with the outrage over Sonia Sotomayor's "wise Latina" comment. It is that it is all too easy for those who are already privileged to move beyond a kerfuffle like being outed as a racist in the Senate. That is the problem with Graham making such an assertion when his colleague is very much someone who has made statements "remotely like" Sotomayor's, except his statements were couched in a history and carried a power Sotomayor's words aren't and don't have - because, as Eugene Robinson alludes, Latinas haven't been running the world for the last millennium. And to ignore how many white men get away with racist and biased and prejudiced statements, to ignore how many minorities have been beaten or killed or harassed for daring to even assert equality, is to ignore the world as it is and as it was. 

Edited for accuracy, via mikhailbakunin's corrections.


mikhailbakunin said...

NPR's Tell Me More recently had a rather one-sided story about Jeff Sessions's racial evolution.

I think it's important to note that Jeff Session denied having called the white civil rights attorney a traitor to his race -- he claimed that he was quoting someone else, and that his comment was distorted almost beyond recognition.

It may have been fairer to say that Sessions is alleged to have made this remark.

petpluto said...

It may have been fairer to say that Sessions is alleged to have made this remark.

Corrected, and noted!

mikhailbakunin said...

Thanks! :)