Sunday, May 17, 2009

Can't America's Judge Judy Be Black?

(originally published on 5/7/09)

With Justice Souter announcing his pending retirement from the Supreme Court, heavy speculation as to who President Obama will pick as his replacement has begun in full force. Already, women’s groups and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the only female judge on the 9-member court, have spoken out very openly about the need for another woman on the court.  Women everywhere are demanding that he use his choice to appoint a woman, and conventional wisdom seems to suggest that he will.

But have people forgotten that Clarence Thomas is the only person of color on the court? Should there not be some sort of representational parity there as well?

 I mentioned this to a friend the other day and he immediately responded back with the question “If you had to pick, which do you prefer? A woman or a person of color on the Supreme Court?”

 And there’s the problem.

Not only am I am once again having to “choose between my gender and my race” in society’s eyes (flashback Barack vs. Hillary) but  I am supposed to value one identity over the other.  is it more meaningful to have someone represent my concerns as  a person of color or as a woman on our nation’s highest court? Knowing our nation’s history, both are of supreme importance.

But people seem to forget – we carry multiple identities. The idea that I am always forced to choose says that not only to people not understand or respect my full identity, but it also means that someone like me – a black or brown woman – is almost never one of the options.  News flash: there are more people in this world than black men and white women.

What about the idea that I shouldn’t have to choose – that the Supreme Court and other high offices should have candidates that break traditional gender and racial categorization but instead represent a portion of America that rarely has strong role models in positions of power: women of color (and no, Oprah isn’t enough).

So here’s hoping that Barack Obama does the unthinkable with his one slot and appoints someone to the Supreme Court that adds not only gender or racial diversity in appearance, but also in the unique life experience that black and brown women across the world, and particularly in America, share. 

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