LatinaLista — The announcement of Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court has elicited a flood of insensitive and offensive remarks. Some have been so over-the-top that retractions are being made.
The most noteworthy is that of Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich who earlier had Tweeted that Sotomayor was a racist — he’s taking it back!
In a column today for a conservative publication, Gingrich wrote in part:
My initial reaction was strong and direct — perhaps too strong and too direct. The sentiment struck me as racist and I said so. Since then, some who want to have an open and honest consideration of Judge Sotomayor’s fitness to serve on the nation’s highest court have been critical of my word choice.
With these critics who want to have an honest conversation, I agree. The word “racist” should not have been applied to Judge Sotomayor as a person, even if her words themselves are unacceptable (a fact which both President Obama and his Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, have since admitted).
Yet, because the nomination of the first Latina to an institution that has been dominated by white, white-haired males is still such a novelty, and unexplored territory, in this nation, it’s clear that insensitivity will continue to dominate any descriptions or references to Sotomayor — even when the intention is clearly not to ridicule.
Why this insensitivity?
For a simple reason, some people just don’t know any better.
Take for example the latest political cartoon that features Sotomayor, a bunch of elephants, a sombrero-covered Obama and candy falling from Sotomayor’s skirt.
The political cartoon, published in today’s The Oklahoman, actually didn’t come from the newspaper but was bought from the cartoon syndicate that carries freelance cartoonist Chip Bok’s work.
When some people saw this cartoon with Sotomayor portrayed as a piÃ±ata with a rope around her neck, the cries of indignation could be heard across the blogosphere. In all honesty, when I saw the thumbnail reproduction, it angered me too.
It evoked memories of another politically insensitive cartoon that featured a chimpanzee.
Yet, when I saw this cartoon at its regular size and took the time to study it, I saw that while it may be somewhat insensitive, it wasn’t really that offensive.
For starters, Sotomayor is depicted as a very healthy, strong individual smiling as she waits for what comes next. The noose around her neck isn’t even around her neck. It doesn’t cause her to hang limp or lifeless. It’s pictured more as a neckline to her judicial robes.
Next, look at the faces of the elephants, a.k.a., Republicans. They have worried expressions on their faces. They’re looking at each other waiting for the other to”hit” first at Sotomayor. Clearly, they are uncomfortable.
Thirdly, the cameras are off to the side of the frame but targeting the elephants. Their presence implies that the American people will be watching how the Republicans conduct themselves during the confirmation process.
Obama wearing the sombrero is meant to set the stage for the game of breaking the piÃ±ata. It alludes to how it’s anticipated that Republicans will take “swings” at Sotomayor during the confirmation process.
Overall, the cartoon seems to be more in favor of Sotomayor than trying to denigrate her. What is unfortunate, and this is where the unfamiliarity with Latino culture comes in, is that the cartoon clearly depicts Mexican elements though Sotomayor is Puerto Rican.
Last I heard, sombreros weren’t that big a fashion statement in Puerto Rico. Now, if the cartoonist had drawn Obama in a guayabera…