From Brett to Brock: The Prerogative of White Male Comfort.
(Originally published on September 20, 2018)
As the fallout from Prof. Christine Ford Blasey's accusation against Judicial Nominee Brett Kavanaugh unfolds, the arguments in his defense take on the usual tried-and-tested forms. The first reaction--the one that is so immediate it is basically contemporaneous--is that Prof. Blasey must be lying. She must be lying. She must be. Then comes the recognition that even if she is saying some of the truth, she must have been confused. Maybe it was just "rough horseplay." And then comes the cavalry: his youth at the time of the alleged offense must be taken into consideration, whoever he was back then is not who he is now, and look at this proverbial "good guy." He coaches volleyball, for heaven's sakes. If these arguments feel familiar, it's because they are. When Brock Turner, a University of Stanford swim team rapist, raped an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, the arguments that succeeded in only forcing him to serve three months of jail time were that "his future" was at stake and that any more time in jail would "ruin his future." Notice that he wasn't going to be raped, or assaulted, or killed. He would just have a harder time building the future he wanted. Because you see, a white man's comfort and success is a right. But black men's need for life is a privilege. Women's need for physical autonomy is a privilege. Immigrant children's need to be with their parents is a privilege. All of our needs are privileges but white men's comfort is a right. This is the system that continues to favor predators over their victims. This is the system that continues to favor murderous law enforcement officers (#notallofficers) over the black children they gun down. This is the system that continues to favor illogical blind rage of "red-blooded Americans" over desperate, terrified, and frantic asylum seekers.
Our needs are not rights. White men's desires are.
As I watch the debates unfold, a line of reasoning (if we can call it that) develops. How can a single accusation "ruin a man's life" and that single accusation is not "legally sufficient evidence." The former describes what is happening in exaggerated terms and the latter creates a non-existent standard. Both are meant to protect a white man's desire to be on the Supreme Court of the United States. That position is not a right; it must be earned. Hon. Brett Kavanaugh is undergoing a job interview for one of the highest positions in the land, which carries a lifetime appointment. Hon. Brett Kavanaugh has absolutely no right to a seat on the Supreme Court. If he did, Hon. Merrick Garland was also deprived of that right and would have a remedy against GOP Members of Congress who refused to even meet with him.
Having an illustrious career as an attorney and then a federal judge, but missing out on a Supreme Court seat is not "ruining a man's life." See the different standard? His inability to get something he really, really, really wants is somehow outrageous. But his support of depriving women and people of color of things they need is just him being a "good guy."
Let's take for example the case of a minor, in immigrant detention, who understandably wanted an abortion. Hon. Kavanaugh dissented in that case, arguing that under the law the Government has an interest in the unborn and that, "the government may further those interests so long as it does not impose an undue burden on a woman seeking an abortion." Somehow, in Hon. Kavanaugh's universe, forcing a teenager to become a mother while in detention because she committed the "crime" of fleeing a country too dangerous for her to stay in was not "an undue burden." I read that and think: if that's an undue burden, then what is? How little regard does he have for women, for immigrants, for people in detention to consider this an undue burden?
What we are seeing is the manifestation of one our oldest traditions: a white man's ambitions and desires for social advancement are taking precedence over the rights of women generally and the victimization of one woman in particular. Here is to hoping we've gotten better at fighting this dynamic. Our rights are real. Our rights deserve to be protected. And his ambitions, while understandable, are not sacrosanct.
I believe Prof. Blasey. Hon. Kavanaugh must be investigated by the FBI and thoroughly questioned by Congress. And we have to keep doing our jobs of keeping the Government accountable.