Thursday, May 28, 2009

Supreme Court Nominee Sotomayor is a Stupid, Racist, Hispanic Chick Lady-and Other Right-Wing Smears

What will they think of next? In case you are keeping score:

- Jeffrey Rosen kicked it off by advancing the claims that Sotomayor is "not that smart".

- Karl Rove and Fred Phelps echoed this line of attack

- Former Republican House member Tom Tancredo raised the bar by calling Sotomayor a racist.

- Newt Gingrich decided that the racist line of attack was the best and called her a "Latina woman racist" via Twitter.

- Rush Limbaugh tweaked the racist line of attack and called her a "reverse racist".

- Ann Coulter jumped on the "racist" bandwagon

- Glenn Beck, while echoing that she is a racist, also made a reference to her as a "Hispanic Chick Lady".

- and finally, Pat Buchanan expressed outrage that the four finalists for the nomination did not include a white male and stated that Sotomayor only got the nomination because she was a Hispanic woman.

Help us out Rachel Maddow:

and why are all these people calling Sotomayor a "racist" or a "reverse racist"? It is because of this quote from a lecture entitled "A Latina Judge's Voice" that she 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.

This quote has been repeated in this isolated format and has been the focal point, by those I referenced above, for their claims of racism. What is missing from the quote above? Ah yes, context! Here is the same quote in context:

Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, a possibility I abhor less or discount less than my colleague Judge Cedarbaum, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice O'Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O'Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, 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.

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.

The point that Sotomayor is making is a simple one. Personal experiences vary depending upon your gender, race, and background. These varied personal experiences give people different perspectives on the same issues. Judges, like everyone, inherently bring these personal experiences with them and they affect the way that various issues are perceived. These variations in perspective are not problematic, they are healthy.

Can you tell me Sotomayor's statements above, are different from this exchange between then Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito and Senator Tom Coburn during Alito's confirmation hearing:

U.S. SENATOR TOM COBURN (R-OK): Can you comment just about Sam Alito, and what he cares about, and let us see a little bit of your heart and what's important to you in life?

ALITO: Senator, I tried to in my opening statement, I tried to provide a little picture of who I am as a human being and how my background and my experiences have shaped me and brought me to this point.

ALITO: I don't come from an affluent background or a privileged background. My parents were both quite poor when they were growing up.

And I know about their experiences and I didn't experience those things. I don't take credit for anything that they did or anything that they overcame.

But I think that children learn a lot from their parents and they learn from what the parents say. But I think they learn a lot more from what the parents do and from what they take from the stories of their parents lives.

And that's why I went into that in my opening statement. Because when a case comes before me involving, let's say, someone who is an immigrant -- and we get an awful lot of immigration cases and naturalization cases -- I can't help but think of my own ancestors, because it wasn't that long ago when they were in that position.

And so it's my job to apply the law. It's not my job to change the law or to bend the law to achieve any result.

But when I look at those cases, I have to say to myself, and I do say to myself, "You know, this could be your grandfather, this could be your grandmother. They were not citizens at one time, and they were people who came to this country."

When I have cases involving children, I can't help but think of my own children and think about my children being treated in the way that children may be treated in the case that's before me.

And that goes down the line. When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender. And I do take that into account. When I have a case involving someone who's been subjected to discrimination because of disability, I have to think of people who I've known and admire very greatly who've had disabilities, and I've watched them struggle to overcome the barriers that society puts up often just because it doesn't think of what it's doing -- the barriers that it puts up to them.

So those are some of the experiences that have shaped me as a person.

COBURN: Thank you.

Mr. Chairman, I think I'll yield back the balance of my time at this time, and if I have additional questions, get them in the next round.

SPECTER: Thank you very much, Senator Coburn.

Video of the above can be found here.

The content of what was said is not the issue, it is who said it. None of these people who are calling Sotomayor a "racist" had a problem when Alito said virtually the same thing at his confirmation hearing. What we are currently seeing is more disgusting partisan politics over the nomination of a Latina woman for the nation's highest court.

The crosspost of this piece is here.

1 comment:

trey said...

Chris, it may be trivial to take one sentence out of context but like it or not politics mostly can rise no higher than trivial things and anyone who knows the current American social scene and is honest would admit that a white man who made an identical statement only substituting his identity would almost assuredly forfeit any chance at high office.

That said, I agree parsing speeches is silly but examining decisions is important and hopefully my Rupub leadership will have the guts to really highlight how hollow this supposed empathy of the multi-cultural left is by putting Sotomayor's decision in the Ricci case front and center. To a broad section of the country, this decision will stink to high heaven. Heck, I even visited the Daily Kos (which I've done maybe 3 or 4 times)when the case was in the news and the commentors in the thread on the case were almost unanimously in support of Ricci and his fellow wronged firefighters. I'm sure there are some tortured arguments that can be made in defense of the 'disparate impact' law Sotomayer based her decision on but there were also tortured arguments that were made backing Jim Crow. Simple commonsense says that any chance we have of establishing and keeping any semblance of a fair social order in this multi-ethnic nation must be moving toward meritocratic criteria (like who scores the highest on a fairly drawn-up test gets the job)and away from a racial spoils system.