Monday, June 01, 2009

Suffering Idiots

I have heard the infamous Sotomayor quote at least a million times now:
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.
It's been "objectively" reported on the news, raked over by pundits, written about on blogs. Pat Buchanan and the entire Morning Joe gang obsessed over its "racist" implication for days. For my part, I took both her quote and their rants at face value, less suspicious of our right-wing driven media than I should have been. Silly me.

Finally tonight I found myself wondering if there wasn't more to the Sotomayor quote... so I Googled it. Guess what I found?

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.
I find nothing even remotely controversial about the quote in context, which is probably why I had to go look for it myself. Seriously... I can't believe I have to live in the same plane as the idiots who control our national dialogue.

There's something very broken in the Republican party if they think their best winning strategy is to appeal to (and stoke, whenever possible) racial fear and hatred. It's been 40 years since the Nixon campaign gave us the "Southern Strategy", 30 years since Reagan's first presidential campaign gave us the mythical "Cadillac driving welfare queens", and 20 years since Papa Bush's campaign scored a victory with Willie Horton. Although Mexicans have spent the past decade wracking up points on GOP's fear-o-meter, the emergence of Obama has certainly sent the crowd into a big-scary-black-man tizzy. Where can a generation of folks who suckled on the teat of racist fear go for comfort?

ACORN ACORN affirmative action ACORN reverse racism ACORN ACORN La Raza ACORN!!!

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