There’s a popular reality TV show called “The Voice” (NBC’s answer to “American Idol”) in which contestants face a panel of four celebrity coaches, and sing for a spot on the show.
There’s a twist, however; unlike its reality show rival, “The Voice” requires contestants to sing to the backs of the four coaches. This forces each coach to choose the singer based solely on what they hear, and not what they see. Some of the most entertaining moments are those when coaches are visibly shocked when the voice they hear does not match what they assumed the person would look like.
How about our leaders? How do we judge them? What is it that prompts us to deem someone worthy of the responsibility of leadership? If you were to ask the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., he’d tell you that, much like the coaches of “The Voice” judge based on sound and not appearance, we ought to judge people by the “content of their character.”
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor seems to disagree.
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Photo Credit: AP
Indeed, she firmly believes it’s the color of your skin, your gender, or even better, a combination of both, that ought to qualify you to lead, make decisions, and otherwise affect the lives of your fellow Americans. Speaking at the University of Washington this past week, Sotomayor made the following statements in response to two students (as reported by The Seattle Times) [emphasis added]:
One student asked what barriers still needed to be broken to improve the representation of women and minorities in government.
"Money," Sotomayor said to laughter. "No, seriously. Look at what’s happening in politics. What’s talking the loudest is money."
For more minorities and women to gain more of a foothold in government decisions, "we’re going to have to work the political system at the highest level," she said.
"What are you optimistic about?" one student wanted to know. Said Sotomayor: "I’m very optimistic about the power of minorities to change the dialogue in this country."
In other words, as a nation, we’re still not open to minorities and women in powerful positions, and to fix the country, we need minorities and women in powerful positions.
Might I remind the female, Latina Supreme Court Justice that she was appointed by President Barack H. Obama, an African American? Might I remind Justice Sotomayor of Eric Holder, an African American and the current Attorney General, or Valerie Jarrett, an Iranian American female and top Obama advisor? It’s also worth recalling Susan Rice, an African American female and current United States National Security Advisor (former Ambassador to the United Nations), and Samantha Power, a female, and current Ambassador to the United Nations. There’s also Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, a Latino; Kathleen Sebelius, a female, and current Secretary of Health & Human Services; Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a female, and current head of the Democratic National Convention, among others. There are also five sitting female governors.
U.S. President Barack Obama (2nd R), Attorney General Eric Holder (C) and Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett (R) meet with leaders from African American civil rights groups in the Roosevelt Room of the White House February 18, 2014 in Washington, DC. Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images
Justice Sotomayor must not recall that the 113th Congress is the most diverse in history. To be certain, there are still more white men in Congress; yet somehow, the ideology of Sonia Sotomayor and other liberals still seems to rein supreme despite the “perceived” lack of diversity . . . but I’ve digressed.
Unless my cognitive abilities fail me, all of the aforementioned positions are quite powerful indeed, and are certainly not isolated examples. Justice Sotomayor’s desire that minorities and women reach the top of the political ladder is not a far-off wish; it’s an established trend.
To be blunt, we are more diverse now as a nation than we’ve ever been. And that is a wonderful thing!
However, has that fact alone solved the challenges facing us today? If our economy, our status in the world, our staggering debt and the increasing divide amongst our people is any indication . . . then, no. Diversity just for diversity’s sake is not a problem solver.
In fact, “diversity just for the sake of diversity” is how we got Barack Obama—i.e. “I voted for him because he’d be our first black president!” Instead, our nation’s problems lie in its leaders’ unabashed refusal to follow our Constitution and the time-tested principles that once made us great.
It’s not lack of color. It’s a lack of conviction and courage.
President Barack Obama waves as he boards Air Force One, Tuesday, March 11, 2014, at Andrews Air Force Base. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
The race (or gender) of a person matters little. It’s what they believe . . . and what actions those beliefs promote. If the people with the right ideas happen to be minorities, women, or both - fantastic. But to make race and gender the primary qualifiers (something for which Sotomayor is well-known) is not only intellectually dishonest, but it is racist and bigoted - for it suggests that by nature of being in an ethnic majority, white people (specifically, males) cannot possibly possess the characteristics necessary for wise leadership today, and conversely, that minorities and women (by virtue of being minorities and women), do.
If census predictions are correct in indicating that within the next 30 years the Asian and Latino populations will outnumber the white population in this country, will Justice Sotomayor and her ilk be advocating for more Caucasians in leadership positions? I certainly hope not. Just as it is wrong to do so now, it would be wrong then. It is one thing to celebrate the history and roots of a particular race within our great nation, and understand the role that it plays in shaping a person’s perspective. It is quite another to hold it (and gender) up as the predominant qualifier for leadership.
What say we start choosing leaders like they choose candidates for “The Voice,” based not on appearances but on something much deeper? After all, we’ve certainly tried it Sotomayor’s way, and what has that achieved? People sent to lead the greatest nation in the world, based on skin color or gender. Is that really the nation we want to be; a nation endlessly mired in discrimination and bigotry?
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