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Sonia Sotomayor Is A Poor Example Of Racism


People who applauded the fact that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, with her somewhat less than impeccable and rather questionable record of national level executive political experience that was somehow the equivalent of the man who would become President, was the most perfect choice to lead the Republican Party to the routing it received that first Tuesday night back in November of 2008 are now saying that Sonia Sotomayor isn’t qualified to be a Supreme Court.  While the political right was happy to see Ms. Palin entrench herself into the good graces of hardworking typical Americans with eye winks to the camera and a shout out and a promise of extra credit to the students in some way off elementary school’s second grade classroom, these same people are doing their best to give Ms. Sotomayor the equivalent of a political beat down.

The party with all the racial diversity of a Ronald Reagan movie is now pointing at Mr. Obama’s choice to be the next justice on the Supreme Court as a racist.  If confirmed she would be the court’s first Hispanic and only the third woman to enjoy such a post, one of only five people not be a white male.  The Republicans have a variety of reasons to justify the rejection of Ms. Sotomayor.  Controversial conservative talk radio personality Rush Limbaugh called Ms. Sotomayor a reverse racist.  Mr. Limbaugh, who never spares any effort when stirring up the Republican faithful, said he hopes Ms. Sotomayor fails.  Mitt Romney called the nomination of Ms. Sotomayor troubling because she has made a statement indicating she has an expansive view of the role of the judiciary.  Mr. Romney said that the American public deserves is a judge who will put the law above her own personal political philosophy.

Most of the people against Ms. Sotomayor’s nomination point to a line from a 2001 speech to a Hispanic group in Berkeley, California as proof of Ms. Sotomayor’s activist potential when she was describing how life experiences can help formulate judicial opinion.  Ms. Sotomayor said, “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

Newt Gingrich called Ms. Sotomayor an overt racist asking people to imagine a white male judicial nominee saying his experience as a white man makes him better than a Latina woman.  Mr. Gangrich said new racism is no better than old racism and if a white man racist would be forced to withdraw then a Hispanic woman should also withdraw.

What racist white person has ever been forced to withdraw from government service?  George Allen stood on stage during a campaign rally and referred to a minority in the audience using a racial slur.  Bill Bennett suggested that it would be abhorrent but if you wanted to reduce crime abort all black babies.  Sarah Palin said that she doesn’t care about black people and as Governor she wasn’t about to hire black people on her staff.  George Wallace stood in front of a school blocking the entrance to keep black people out.  Mr. Wallace went on to win the office of Governor of Alabama several times after that.  John McCain, the Republican Party nominee for the presidency, referred to some Asians as gooks and refused to apologize for the slur.

Only in America can the leadership of a political party whose members to this day continue to ask questions like what has the first black President of the United States done to earn an honorary doctorate from Notre Dame, an honor the school regularly bestows on just about anybody who shows up to give a commencement speech, can flip the script and call anyone who has ever said anything indicating their willingness to buck the racial status quo.

Whether or not the pick of Ms. Sotomayor is actually a wise choice for the benefit of the nation or not has yet to be determined.  Most of us never heard of her before she was revealed as Mr. Obama’s top nominee to replace David Souter on the nation’s highest court.  Most of us will have to pay close and careful attention to the confirmation process itself and not rely solely on the regurgitated excerpts and commentary from political pundits on all the news shows in order to form an honest opinion.

But it should be no surprise to see the Republicans attack Mr. Obama’s choice with all the vehemence they can muster within minutes after she was announced.  For many, a line from a speech about eight years ago saying that she hoped her experience as a Latina woman makes her wiser than a white man is all the proof they need to label her a racist and an activist.

And the fact that Mr. Obama used code words like “empathy” to describe what he wanted to see in a judicial nominee doesn’t help.  That was an indication that the President was looking for someone who would actually have enough of a consciousness to consider how his or her ruling would impact people.  These people would probably have been happier if Mr. Obama said that he wanted someone who could not care any less about the impact a ruling may effect the population.  I know how much I look forward to seeing that kind of judge hearing any case I bring to court.

It should be noted that most of the people trying to paint Ms. Sotomayor as a liberal activist would love to see someone nominated who would support their position on each and every controversial issue that goes before the court.  They’d love to see an activist judge for corporate America or for the further dismantling of anything remotely resembling affirmative action or an activist judge ready to support for the status quo that is synonymous with patriarchy and white privilege.

Thursday, May 28, 2009 - Posted by | Justice, Life, Racism, Republicans, Sonia Sotomayor, Supreme Court, Thoughts


  1. I’m not sure how I feel about Sotomayor entirely. I’ve heard that despite arguments that she is a hardcore liberal, she has ben painted mostly as more of a wild card that could go either way.

    Her comments at Berkeley, and the whole Ricci v. DeStefano, in New Haven can be quite troubling. The Berkeley thing could be qualified as a joke, but the Ricci case definitely cant be. I know this might make me a bit unpopular here today, but the fact that promotion tests were thrown out because all but one of the qualified candidates for promotion were white, the remaining individual hispanic, can be a bit bothersome. It’s not that I’m arguing a white is right idea, but that promotions were based on test scores alone. Or they were supposed to be, anyways. And had things been in the other direction, in which all minorities scored highest and no whites made it, and then tests were scrapped, I would be equally bothered by the situation.

    But as far as her appointment and possible term as Supreme Court Justice go, I guess we shall see. Thanks for listening.

    Comment by Mike Lovell | Friday, May 29, 2009 | Reply

  2. Mike, what’s your point about Sotomayor and Ricci?

    After all, she simply joined her fellow judges in ruling that federal law allowed (indeed, essentially required) that the promotion test be thrown out.

    You may not agree with federal discrimination law, but it’s not Sotomayor’s job to make the law, much less to be an activist judge and change it.

    I think this is probably why she has a reputation as a dependably moderate judge who issues careful and nuanced opinions.

    (That business about being a “wild card” isn’t a comment about what her views are, but just that she hasn’t ruled on such issues as Roe v. Wade, and therefore her vote on such issues can’t be predicted. Which is as it should be.)

    Comment by James | Friday, May 29, 2009 | Reply

  3. Well I guess my problem is I don’t see where (or how could)did discrimination law play a point in things?

    As an analogy (and yes I’m going apples to oranges here a bit, but…) If you have basketball tryouts, and no white guys made the team because they didn’t perform to a level that was best suited for the team, and then the league comes in, throws out the tryouts and says, you have to put “x” amount of white players on the team..well that would be wrong in my mind as well.

    In the end, was the test shown to be discriminatory in nature and how? And if it wasn’t shown to be biased in its format, why wouldnt the highest test performers get the promotions regardless of race, or gender or sexual orientation, or any other issue for that matter?

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to be difficult here, I just dont seem to understand the original decisions that led to the results leading up to and including that case.

    Comment by Mike Lovell | Friday, May 29, 2009 | Reply

  4. I guess my problem is I don’t see where (or how could)did discrimination law play a point in things?

    Mike, any time an employment test has a “disparate impact” based on race (in this case, passing none of the black firefighters, while an unbiased approach to promotions would be extremely unlikely to do so), it is presumed under the law to be biased and raises a substantial likelihood that the city could be sued by those who suffer from the disparate impact.

    Your analogy assumes that the test measured ability fairly. Let’s choose a closer analogy: Suppose that a statewide, standardized math and science test passed 90% of white students and only 40% of black students. Let’s further assume that white and black students had been doing equally well in their math and science classes. While there is no federal discrimination law at work here, it’s fair to say that the test probably has a disparate impact; we could all agree, I hope, that the test results should be thrown out, and not that we should let the test stand and ruin the graduation prospects, or college chances, of the black students.

    In the end, was the test shown to be discriminatory in nature and how?

    It was shown to have a disparate impact, and a dramatic one, at that. It certainly appears to have been discriminatory in effect, if not in intent; at a minimum, under the law, the burden would then fall on the city to show that this surprising result was due to some other, legitimate factor, such as the black firefighters being markedly poorer candidates for promotion than their white colleagues (something I hope we can agree isn’t very likely).

    if it wasn’t shown to be biased in its format, why wouldnt the highest test performers get the promotions regardless of race, or gender or sexual orientation, or any other issue

    It isn’t merely a matter of “format,” Mike. Standardized tests can have many flaws, including cultural biases which have been shown time and again to significantly impact results.

    This, of course, is why most employers promote based largely on performance records and evaluations and other factors, and rarely rely heavily on standardized tests to award promotions to experienced employees.

    The real issue is that the city should have seen this coming, and not that its white firefighters are entitled to promotions based on this particular test.

    Comment by James | Friday, May 29, 2009 | Reply

  5. Here’s my additional two cents on the subject…

    I think the basketball analogy is an apt one. If I was going to create a team to play basketball I would be putting people through drills to determine their ability to play and win games as well as work with other players on my team. People who played well but didn’t work together well with anyone else probably wouldn’t cut it. People who worked well with others but couldn’t play a lick probably wouldn’t make it. There would be a number of factors to consider when putting my team together.

    The last thing I would do is probably give potential players a written test to determine how much they knew about the game and used that as the sole determining factor as to who will be on my team or not.

    I’m pretty sure I could develop a written test on basketball, take it to the nearest basketball court and watch people who are the masters of sky hooks and no look passes flunk it. There are people who understand basketball as a way of life that probably wouldn’t know the first thing about basketball history or basketball theory. My only concern is to get people who truly know the practical aspects of the game and not who knows a written test. To me, good test takers do not equate to good basketball players.


    Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Friday, May 29, 2009 | Reply

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