Friday, June 5, 2009
Well, even though I posted just a few hours ago, seeing this cover was enough for me to add another quick post.
For those who aren't familiar with the woman who is so oddly depicted as Buddha, she is Judge Sonia Sotomayor, the current nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. The headline under the magazine cover imagine, "The Wise Latina," is a reference to the following line from a speech Sotomayor gave in 2001:
"I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."
Many conservative politicians and commentators have used this line, as well as a few of Sotomayor's case decisions, to peg her as a racist - never mind that racism, by it's very nature, is a social construction and action derived from the power and privilege afforded to the majority or controlling group of a society. Since Sotomayor is Puerto Rican-American, it's ridiculous to suggest that she is racist, or that her actions and words could be considered racism. I suppose a more accurate word, if you find fault with Sotomayor's actions or words, would be "prejudice." (I personally have no issue with either the above quote, nor the court decisions mentioned by conservatives as "racist."
However, what I do find troubling is this National Review cover, not only because it flirts with racist WWII anti-Japanese propaganda poster images, but also because it seems to be taking shots not only at Sotomayor, but also at Buddhism itself. Now, I think it's healthy to laugh and kid around about your religious or spiritual tradition. I have no qualms with cartoons and jokes that make light of foibles or eccentricities within a given tradition. In fact, I view it a big sign of trouble if you have no sense of humor about your spiritual life.
But this particular image seems to be doing something else. It's twisting the concept of Buddhist wisdom, and the image of the Buddha, into nothing more than a vehicle for delivering a cheap shot on a political opponent. Furthermore, it portrays a prominent Latina American using stereotyped Asian facial features - which makes one wonder what kind of message this image is really sending about race (and racism) in the United States. I'd say it suggests we have a long way to go on the road to a society beyond racism.
Posted by Nathan at 6:15 PM