Sotomayor, Etc.

May 28th, 2009

Right-wingers are on a new rant: Sotomayor is a racist. This is the statement she made which they are objecting to:

“I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion [as a judge] than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

Sounds racist, right? Sexist as well! Latina women are wiser than white men? Racism! Sotomayor must withdraw!!

Except… the quote, of course, is completely different in context. The above quote is in the context of making a decision on sex discrimination cases. Is it racist to say that a Latina woman is more likely than not to better understand the realities of sexual harassment than a white male? Of course it’s not racist. It’s completely reasonable. Of course a woman will understand sexual harassment better than a man.

Sotomayor points out, correctly, that when the court was all white-male, issues regarding race and gender were not handled in an unbiased manner, and that adding people with more diverse life experience to the court could help correct that. And she’s perfectly correct.

Soon after the ‘controversial’ statement, Sotomayor continued:

Let us not forget that wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society. Until 1972, no Supreme Court case ever upheld the claim of a woman in a gender discrimination case. I, like Professor Carter, believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group. Many are so capable. As Judge Cedarbaum pointed out to me, nine white men on the Supreme Court in the past have done so on many occasions and on many issues including Brown.

However, to understand takes time and effort, something that not all people are willing to give. For others, their experiences limit their ability to understand the experiences of others. Other simply do not care. Hence, one must accept the proposition that a difference there will be by the presence of women and people of color on the bench. Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see. My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which I am unfamiliar. I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage.

Note that she does not exempt herself from the dangers of judging unwisely outside her field of experience. A little later, she repeats that sentiment of self-caution, that her experience tints her perceptions just as much as a white male’s experience would tint his, and she must be careful to learn and understand:

I am reminded each day that I render decisions that affect people concretely and that I owe them constant and complete vigilance in checking my assumptions, presumptions and perspectives and ensuring that to the extent that my limited abilities and capabilities permit me, that I reevaluate them and change as circumstances and cases before me requires. I can and do aspire to be greater than the sum total of my experiences but I accept my limitations.

Boy, what an unreasonable, flaming racist she is!!!

It should be noted, by the way, that whenever Bush nominated an extremist non-white judge and Democrats opposed the nomination, Republicans went on a frenzy of calling Democrats “racist” even though their objections were clearly on political grounds alone. Similarly, when an extremist woman nominee was opposed, Democrats were sexist as well. In fact, when an extremist Bush nominee was white, Democrats were reverse racists. Essentially, Republicans scream “racist” pretty much all the time.

Why is it that whenever a judicial nominee is discussed–no matter which party’s president is nominating–somehow, the Democrats are always all racists?

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