By Juleyka Lantigua
The more I hear, read, and witness the reaction of many (mostly conservative) white people to the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, the worse I feel for white people in general.
You know the feeling. That nagging sense of collective embarrassment (C.E.) some of us brown/black folks feel whenever “one of us” does something so outrageously unimaginable that we shrug our shoulders and brace for impact.
A Latino mayor of huge city admitting to cheating on his wife.
A certain Black civil rights icon threatening to castrate a presidential candidate.
A Black star athlete shooting himself in a club after strapping his gun to his sweatpants.
A first Latino governor who can’t get confirmed for Cabinet because he’s so corrupt.
I don’t know for sure if white people ever get a serious outbreak of C.E., but I bet plenty of them are feeling a little rash-y right about now. The likes of Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, Bill O'Reilly and their ilk have spent the last week chomping at Judge Sotomayor, and trying to best each other for bottom-feeder status.
Among their most ignorant claims:
She’s an immigrant fluent in “illegal speak.”
She’s a racist who thinks she’s better than a white man.
Her menstrual cycles will impact court rulings.
She does not know the real America.
I’m not accusing all white people of sharing these incendiary views, not by far. But what I am aware of is that the rest of us non-whites are watching and listening carefully, because deep down in places we don’t talk about, we live with the fear that to some extent many more white folks see us in such radically warped ways as to render some of these statements .0000000001% true in their worldviews.
And that’s why I feel bad for white people right now. I feel bad for them because an almost measurable degree of doubt has been introduced to their relationships with the rest of us, because they have all become somewhat suspect in our eyes—just a tiny bit—because the most vociferous and dangerously ignorant among them have unleashed the type of venom that clouds the air for years.
I hope I’m wrong about this, and that this is merely a fleeting manifestation of some deep-set paranoia the immigrant, Bronx-bred, educated Latina in me harbors in a forgotten crevice in her mind.
Juleyka Lantigua is a writer whose work has appeared in books, magazines and newspapers around the world.