Why Dianne Feinstein’s Approach to Amy Barrett Threatens Latinas

Notre Dame Law Professor Amy Barrett was recently confirmed by the US Senate as a judge for the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. This confirmation, however, did not draw as many headlines as her contentious confirmation hearing.

When Dianne Feinstein questioned Barrett’s qualifications during her Senate confirmation hearing, something gave her “a very uncomfortable feeling.” She believed Barrett’s religious beliefs posed a threat both to her and the country as a whole.

Public discourse surrounding the hearing largely centered on whether or not Feinstein committed a legal faux pas by imposing a religious litmus test. However, I would suggest that Feinstein’s line of questioning has also created a dangerous precedent that may open the door to increased discrimination based on race, ethnicity, or sex.

But wait a second, you might counter—Amy Barrett is white; Senator Feinstein is white. Both are women–where am I going with this and why does everything have to be about race?! I bring this up because Amy Barrett and Dianne Feinstein do not represent or speak for a large number of women in the US, past or present.

Latino Americans make up the largest minority group in the US, and while religious diversity certainly exists within that group, a majority still claim that religious beliefs are important to them and a majority of those continue to identify as Catholic. For generations, many of us have found a way to integrate our faith and left-of-center political views, likely because of the history, culture, and political legacies of the countries our ancestors called home.

Many of these people are women–they are women of color. A precedent of silencing or rejecting a person based on their perceived religious views gives people with racist or sexist inclinations and biases—even implicit biases—an easy road to follow.  “She’s Catholic–she will undermine so much that we’ve worked for,” can easily become a path for denying Latina women positions of power and preserving racial and gender imbalances in influence and power.

Given the Catholics who currently dominate political power and media influence in the US and claim to speak on our behalf, Feinstein’s caution against confirming Amy Barrett is not a clear sign of anti-Catholic bigotry. But it does echo the tactics of past movements that have sought to suppress immigrant Catholic groups and their beliefs in the name of protecting America.

She told people like me that she will determine if I’m worthy of having a voice in her party or if I should stay quiet and just provide her a vote. Her approach threatens where I can and can’t work; what I can and can’t think; who I can and can’t be. If I, and my family, are really American or not. For a feminist who claims she values the contribution of my family to this country, this is pretty ironic.

Desiree Garcia works as a designer in the tech industry, a job that provides more insight into our faith than you may think.