11 Jun Life in the Fast Lane -- A defining perspective

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As an African in America, I am always challenged to define and redefine my worldview in response to the dominant culture. Recently, Supreme Court nominee, Judge Sonya Sotomayor became the latest non-white person to be placed under a microscope regarding her perspective on her ethnic minority status.

We are all aware of what happened during the Obama Presidential campaign. The short version is that this crucible of attention nearly bleached all of the color out of him as he tried to define why he chose to be viewed as a Black man. The outcome that troubles me most is the notion that he represents a post racial "colorblind" worldview for people of color in this country. I disagree strongly with this conclusion, whoever holds it.

Now, in the Henry Louis Gates case, as he expressed his view that the Cambridge police "acted stupidly by arresting a man in his own home" -- the colorblind police, racists, and post-racial naysayers are attacking him about an issue that all Black men live with every day.

A couple of quotes from Judge Sotomayor's speeches capture the challenge and perspective for her as a Puerto Rican -- the same challenges that we have known for more than 500 years as alien Africans in this country. "Somewhere all of us Puerto Ricans and people of color have had a defining moment when we were shocked into learning that we were different and that American society treated us differently," she told the National Puerto Rican Coalition in 1998. "The shock and sense of being an alien will never again, I suspect, be as profound for any of us as that first experience, because I know from personal experience that our education and professional training have equipped us to deal better in this sometimes alien land."

In another 1998 speech, she said the United States was often ambivalent about how to deal with its diversity. "America has a deeply confused image of itself that is a perpetual source of tension," she said. "We are a nation that takes pride in our ethnic diversity, recognizing its importance in shaping our society and in adding richness to its existence.

"Yet we simultaneously insist that we can and must function and live in a race- and color-blind way that ignores those very differences that in other contexts we laud."


Basically, she is saying to the mainstream that they are trying to live a lie. And she was attacked during her confirmation hearing for all the implications of such a worldview.

What is most troubling is that only those African Americans and other people of color who somehow gain a foothold above this crushing experience get to speak eloquently about our condition, and at the same time profess loyalty, pride, and a desire to lead this country.    Others are left with a bitterness that is hard to overcome.

So, now we have an African American President, and soon-to-be-confirmed Puerto Rican Supreme Court judge (sadly, Clarence Thomas does not count).

America doesn't want to hear the perspective from a minority. The white mainstream doesn't realize that a "wise Latina woman" or "brilliant Black man" with the audacity of hope -- can make better decisions in the interests of all of us than white men who don't share their experience- when the wisdom of those experiences is added to the hard work, intelligence, and excellence that the dominant society claims to value.

As the increases in the Black and Brown population make our society more and more diverse, the wisdom that comes with this diversity will make us a better nation.

Let me know what you think.

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Last modified on Sunday, 02 October 2016 23:55