I’m sorry I’m not jumping up and down and imagining Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and new Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan having a slumber party just yet! It’s just this little thing: Kagan has a seriously dismal record on hiring both women and people of color (and of course, women of color) to fill tenure or tenure track positions.
To begin, and most notably, the White House does not dispute our basic facts. When Kagan was dean of Harvard Law School, four-out-of-every five hires to its faculty were white men. She did not hire a single African American, Latino, or Native American tenured or tenure track academic law professor. She hired 25 men, all of whom were white, and seven women, six of whom were white and one Asian American. Just 3 percent of her hires were non-white — a statistic that should raise eyebrows in the 21st Century.
I know white feminists were all excited thinking of three women in the SCOTUS at the same time, and queer folks were kind of excited because she might not be straight and she banned the military from recruiting at Harvard Law due to DADT. But hello! Just because she’s a woman and was nominated by a Democratic president doesn’t mean we should roll over and not demand that someone should be nominated who has a better track record on diversity.
If she was nominated by a Republican president, every social justice activist organization would be all over this record like white on rice. It’s inexcusable. And to say that the statistics don’t take into account offers made? Anyone who lets that slide by has the privilege to let it slide by. Powerful white women should be held to the same standard as powerful white men when it comes to racial issues. Period. I’m not sacrificing my race to save my gender because that would be inauthentic. I’m a woman of color, I have to be aware of both.
The fact that some white feminists think it’s enough that she’s a woman, that we shouldn’t critique what little record she does have, is just blatantly dismissive of the concerns of women of color. We don’t have court decisions like we did with Sotomayor. Kagan has never served as a judge. Which is fine, but that means the only way we can tell what her politics are is through the choices she made and the actions she took in the jobs she performed. Judging by that measure, I would say she’s neither a friend to other women nor to people of color.
The whole lock-step thing progressives tend to do when a Democrat is in office needs to stop. You can’t be a vigilant watchdog when the opposing party is in power but become a yappy puppy when your people roll into town. This is exactly why I’m not affiliated with a political party. For me as a black woman at the intersections of many oppressed identities I’ve only found that they’ll both fuck you and be gone in the morning. It’s just that one of them leaves a note.
I want to see anti-racist feminists take up this issue. Because so many times these things are sacrificed in the name of solidarity, like we shouldn’t mess this up because the “other side” will win if we don’t all just smile and let it slide. Who are we trying to please? Shouldn’t we hold everyone to the same principles, regardless of party? Maybe the fact that she only hired seven women out of 32 positions will wake white feminists up.
So yeah, I’m not too excited.