White Privilege and Sexism Merge at the U.S. Supreme Court

By Austin R. Cooper

As I sat in my hotel room in West Africa watching Justice Brett Kavanaugh confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court, I was reminded of what several Africans have said to me since the election of President Donald Trump: “So my American friend, how does it feel to live under a dictator? Welcome to the African way.”

On the afternoon of September 27th, I posted on Facebook: “Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is not only poised, but also credible. Without a doubt, she is being truthful. The Brett Kavanaugh nomination is dead.” Clearly, I was wrong.

Later I wrote, “Sen. Lindsey Graham’s conscience died last month. Referencing the passing of Sen. John McCain, I was right.

The following morning, I said, “The president, prior to shaming him into not running for re-election, often referred to Sen. Jeff Flake as flaky.” The president and I remain in agreement on that assessment.

Senator Flake’s request to delay a committee vote in order to give the FBI one additional week to explore other allegations of sexual misconduct, was nothing but a fleeting display of political courage. If it was ever genuine to begin with.

Numerous individuals who wanted to share their stories with the FBI were ignored. The investigation was a sham at the implicit direction of the White House.

A former boss used to remark, “When I come back in another life, I want to be a White man. It’s just too difficult being Black in America.” I always laughed at his comment, despite the deep realization that it is a true statement.

I also find truthful humor in the comedienne Chris Rock’s routine as he reflects on White complaints of reverse discrimination: “Oh, we’re losing everything we worked for. We’re losing…. White people ain’t losing shit. If you all are losing, who’s winning? It ain’t us. Shit, there ain’t a White man in this room who would trade places with me. And I’m rich.”

White male privilege allowed Justice Kavanaugh to comfortably display a complete lack of judicial temperament, respect and regard for members of the very government body that would decide his fate, without repercussion.

It allowed him to yell at senators in the minority, while those in the majority sat silently. Serena Williams was held to a higher standard and suffered more consequences for her outbursts at the last US Open than was Justice Kavanaugh.

It allowed the Senate majority to cower behind prosecutor Rachel Mitchell as she posed questions on their behalf to Dr. Ford – lest they lose their cool and show themselves for who they really are on national television – then publicly sideline her and return to their comfort zone with a soothing questioning of Justice Kavanaugh.

An insensitive president, who himself has been accused of offensive behavior to women, was suddenly empowered to ridicule and attack Dr. Ford to the delight of many, some of whom in their ignorant splendor, shouted “Lock her up!”

It offered Senator Mitch McConnell and Senator Chuck Grassley the opportunity to deny Judge Merrick Garland even the basic courtesy of member meetings and a committee vote.

Such privilege offered Justice Kavanaugh protection to lie under oath and deny ever drinking obsessively in college, despite the contrary observations of several former buddies who drank with him.

It grants political cover under oath, you express an intent to extract political retribution to those whom you feel have wronged you – “what goes around comes around” – once on the Court.

Remarkably, it can even transfer power to White women and permit, for example, Sen. Susan Collins and others to argue that Dr. Ford was assaulted, just not by the person she identified with “one hundred percent” certainty as her assailant.

We all have behavior in our past which would be embarrassing if it ever came under media scrutiny. However, we also each have an obligation and responsibility to acknowledge and own our past. Both the good and bad.

To those who doubt the truthfulness of Dr. Ford’s testimony, I ask: How would you have voted had the accuser been a loved one of yours? Your mother, wife, daughter or sister? Would you be comfortable with the scope of the FBI investigation? Would you laugh as the president mocked her?

There is nothing that Justice Kavanaugh could have said to convinced me to support his nomination. After all, he was nominated by a president who does not represent my interests and will be as useless to me as Justice Clarence Thomas.

As Chairman Grassley sped Justice Kavanaugh’s nomination to a vote, he declared the Senate was approaching “rock bottom” and needed to right itself. He was correct.

Voters in general, and women in particular, can begin righting this ship by voting in November. Certainly, after this newest addition to the Supreme Court, everyone should realize that elections matter.

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