Sotomayer a racist? Oh, please

It’s fun to see the attitudes of early critics of President Obama’s nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. Nationally, and locally, people are picking up in her outrageous claim that, since she’s a woman and a Hispanic, she might decide things differently than a white guy.

Yeah, “huh?”

Especially interesting is newly minted Senatorial Candidate Mark Shurtleff, who said  ‘She clearly has to answer some questions about her judicial attitude about who she is and whether that’s going to make her any better of a judge.”

The same could, of course, be said about Shurtleff, but his tone is that, since she’s a woman and a Hispanic who had the audacity to say those things out loud, this somehow makes her unable to be “fair” whatever that is. Shurtleff, of course, would never, ever, be unfair or biased in his decisions.

Numerous other critics have chimed in similarly: Sen. Hatch said she sounds like an “activist” of some sort.  Rush Limbaugh accused her of “reverse racism,” which is a real head-scratcher.

Truth: Everyone has biases based on who they are. I do. You do. Your mother does. Everyone.

Sotomayor should be praised for admitting that she has biases and things that make her decide things in certain ways. Only by admitting and recognizing our built-in hard wired prejudices can we overcome them, or at least allow for them.

I’m more worried, frankly, by white guys who seem to what us to think that white guys never, ever, have any biases and so are  better picks. Even when the Supreme Court was nothing but white guys, there were plenty of 5-4 decisions handed down.

Women need to be part of the decision making process. They are more than half the population, so fairness demands that they be on the court.

More important, women see things that men are not capable of seeing — for example, when Weber State was designing a new bus shelter for its campus it couldn’t figure out why no women would use the old ones. Finally someone asked the woman on the design committee and the answer was simple: It only had one entrance, no exit.

Guys don’t worry about being trapped — it’s not in their world view — but women ponder such things daily, and for good reason.

Hatch’s claim that Sotomayor might be “activist” is simply silly. Everyone’s an “activist” who doesn’t vote the way he wants, based on his prejudices. The degree of ego such an attitude displays is one of the most disturbing things about politics today: People who think they are so right that all debate must stop.

I will be very interested to see whether Hatch or Bennett try to block votes on Sotomayor. Considering that Hatch, especially, constantly called for “an up or down vote” when his pet nominee was being blocked in past administrations, one would think he’d have no objections now, but that’s never, ever, how these things work.

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19 Responses to Sotomayer a racist? Oh, please

  1. Cathy says:

    What’s wrong with being an “activist”? Is Hatch calling her an “activist” as some kind of insult? LOL!

    I disagree with some of the things Obama is doing, some of the people he’s choosing – but frankly I’m tired of people automatically finding fault with everything he does. Our politicians need to be honest with themselves and just admit that they plan to work against whatever he does, even if he does the right thing. Scary.

  2. Charles Trentelman says:

    Constant attack is clearly the GOP strategy, and has been since the campaign, even during the campaign. No matter what he says, or does, or proposes, it must be attacked or questioned. The fact that the attacks don’t reflect reality is beside the point.

  3. Inez says:

    Regarding Sotomayor and the moral majority: I expected the republicans and conservs to be up in arms about a liberal choice. That, as far as politics goes, is par for the course. What surprised me was the immediacy of slings and slants. Wow folks, Here I was just happy as punch that a Latino was nominated ( of course from another view my enthusiasm might be misunderstood) because I am also a Puerto Rican from the South Bronx in New York and unlike Sotomayor, I don’t have the degrees or connections, but I still shouted that maybe, just maybe an open mind would be used to view this wonderful moment. First of all it took the media an entire day to say she was Puerto Rican, and then it was oh no, she is a radical. We have come from waving banners of hatred. It said Indians, and that was slashed and replaced by blacks, and that was slashed and replaced by Latinos (ALL Kinds), and that was slashed and replaced by gays. We haven’t moved into the 21st century, we simply altered the banner in the window. For the lovely politician that says racism does not exist, he is wrong. It is alive, ripe and well and living in AmehreeKah. Does anyone remember when blacks were slaves, not allowed to vote? Indians not allowed the ownership of their native land? Well, we are still in the midst of it with, Latinos not allowed to just be Latino and gays not allowed to be gay. Why is it that I an a cluster of folks I know view bias prevalent and allowed and some politician has the nerve and opportunity to go on TV and spew hateful things about an individual that has obviously worked her entire life towards a goal that any other person would be envied. Why does she have to be from the projects, and why does she have to be compared to other “minorities” on the bench… you know why? Because racism exists, and if enough folks spoke up and were open like Sotomayor there would be an end to it. She isn’t a bigot, no more than I am skinny, she simply has an opinion, and like gays getting married there is nothing wrong with that unless the majority rulers disagree. Unfortunately, we the people still do not live in an equal society. The way that Sotomayor is being portrayed and the way gays are treated is an obvious clue to changes that need to be made if the playing field is ever going to be viewed as level. I don’t remember when Sotomayor was nominated by Clinton, or Bush, but then maybe it’s because it wasn’t a big deal… so then why in this unbiased country is it a big deal now? I think the Pilgrims at the table aren’t playing with a full deck or they are delusional. I am so proud of Sotomayor, and Obama for being a part of these hard choices, and I hope we can each someday soon, see the need for respect on a level basis. I have faith, my mamita taught me that. Adios Inez

  4. Joan Drakos says:

    I’m old, I remember when there were only men on the Supreme Court and what a breakthrough when Sandra Day O’Conner was confirmed. We need more women in government and in CEO positions. It brings not only diversity but a whole different mentality that men simply do not possess. Marriages that work well are the ones where both sides have an equal voice. We need that. As far as her seeing things differently, don’t you suppose that Clarence Thomas sees things differently than John Roberts?

  5. Robert M says:

    Since when is a judge supposed “to make policy”? I thought that a judge was to disregard their personal beliefs and rule based on the constitution…. And why do liberals vilify those who question the motivations of critics when the honorable Senator Kennedy within hours of Judge Borks nomination went on the floor of the senate and “smeared” him with outright lies. A senator who failed to report the death of passenger in his car….who tried to get others at the party on Martha’s Vineyard to take responsibility….Sotomayor ruled against fireman who passed exams in favor of those who failed based on the color of their skin. Is that waht this country has come to? Rewarding failure and mediocrity! I am an old retired white guy who has for most of his life worked 60+ hours a week! I do not want handouts and I PAY MY TAXES! I worry about my grandkids(2,6,8)…all together they now owe nearly $1.5 Million and they have just started life….if Obama has his way they will owe more than $3 million before they are out of high school….and $6 million by the time they out of college….think about it. And where is the money going? Who is benefiting from it? Obama has now postponed till 2010 accounting for the $785 Billion he and the liberals have pushed through….that transparency. Get a life folks and stop looking at life through those rose collored glasses…. And trust me I am not defending the Republicans or Bush! They bear plenty of responsibility in this….but that doesn’t justify trashing a great country and mortgaging the future.

  6. Jim Hutchins says:

    Inez,

    This has been in the works for a long time. They just sprung the mousetrap once they knew the name.

    http://tr.im/mB0t

    http://tr.im/mB1W

  7. Robert M says:

    Joan….my question to you is how many would be enough? And do you know how many women head their own companies…and are CEOs? I believe that equal opportunity is what we should be striving for not quotas… Decisions on CEOs, Judges, etc should be on merit, ability and achievement….not race color or creed! King said it best “…a person should be judged by the content of their character not the color of their skin…”. I think that also applies to gender. Judges are supposed to be referees not policy makers! And to you Charles liberals have their attack dogs too! Look at how they attacked the charactor of Thomas and Alito…so don’t throw many stones in that glass house…and I wonder if you will post this?

  8. Di Lewis says:

    So Robert, are you saying she is unqualified?

    If she has the qualifications necessary and will also be able to represent a growing minority in America and an majority minority (women), what’s the problem?

    Granted I haven’t done much research about her yet, so I don’t know whether I think she will be faithful in upholding the law. But her resume looks good so far.

  9. Charles Trentelman says:

    Post what, Robert? Oh, that thing that was automatically posted and, so far, remains?

    yeah, us liberals, always letting people have their say. How silly of us. Shows weakness, I know, but that’s liberals for you.

    Seriously, say what you like, keep it clean, no prob.

    Sotomayor’s point is not that a Hispanic should be selected because she is Hispanic, but that selecting a qualified person who is Hispanic brings in viewpoints that non-Hispanics don’t have, just as bringing in a woman brings in views that men don’t have.

    I repeat an earlier observation: Why do so many assume that white males do not have pre-built prejudices but that minorities and women do?

    Everyone does. By assuming that selecting a woman, or a Hispanic, or a Black, is “reverse discrimination” or “racist” you assume that they are ONLY selected for those reasons, whereas there seems to be a presumption that white guys are ALWAYS selected because they are so brilliantly fair and unprejudiced and that their being white guys is not important at all.

    Which of course is nonsence.

    Speaking of which, I love all the talk about “merit, ability and achievement” in this debate — you and I both know that everyone will really be looking for a “Roe v. Wade” litmus test indicator, which has as much to do with ability and achievement as a bicycle has to do with fishing.

  10. As for feelings and objectivity and professionalism and that whole line of argument, I was struck by a blog post today by David Brooks, who said he’s been “reading dozens of books about cognition.” Essentially, it’s impossible, Brooks’ experts say, for a justice to divorce personality from opinion:

    NYT’s Brooks says cognitive experts know it’s impossible for a justice to strip personality from opinion. http://digg.com/u14DZW

  11. Jim Hutchins says:

    Mark:

    Good point. I haven’t been attending crime conferences for 35 years like some, but I have been attending neuroscience conferences for almost that long, and Brooks’ point is well-taken.

    We are a nation of laws, not men, but yet those laws must be implemented and adjudicated by men (meaning humans). I appreciate to-be-Justice Sotomayor’s remarks and agree with her. Also, I would urge all who are thinking about criticizing her to look at her remarks in context.

    http://tr.im/mBN3

  12. James says:

    Mr. Trentelman,

    I am not sure whether you deliberately distorted her comment or accidentally did so. The accusations of her being a racist did not come from her saying that her life experiences would lead her to different conclusions. She said a “better conclusion”. One thing to note is that she brought race up intentionally, she also alluded that Latina women have richer life experiences than White Males, so Latina Women would be more likely to make better decisions.

    That position is uncomfortably close to sounding racist.

    She did not say that White Males could not lead rich lives or have rich experiences. Merely that Latina Women seemingly be default do, and that White Males seemingly by default do not. Thus, White Males may be less capable (or in her own words she hopes so) when it comes to good decision making. She was speaking in reference to Sandra Day O’Connors comment that sex does not determine decision making capability one way or another.

    Why she turned it into a racial discussion rather than sex is unknown to me. Before people defend her or condemns her they perform their own research into the intent and context of her comment.

  13. James says:

    Gingrich’s mistake here is attempting to hold her to the “white male” standard. I.e. would a “white male” who said the following be forced to withdraw:

    “I WOULD HOPE THAT a wise white male with the richness of his experiences would MORE OFTEN THAN NOT reach a better conclusion than a Latina woman who hasn’t lived that life.”

    - commenting on judicial qualifications before all-white group calling itself “The Race”

    Whether she is or is not a racist, it is not entirely unreasonable to ask the question given the circumstances.

  14. Jim Hutchins says:

    James,

    She was talking specifically about deciding cases where discrimination was alleged.

    Again, if you take the remarks out of context, they can be made to sound racist. It’s a schoolyard game.

    There are arguments to be made for and against Sotomayor’s nomination, just as there would be with any Supreme Court nominee. I am overwhelmed by the silliness of a media-driven “gotcha” game where the past statements of nominees are sifted in the finest detail for flecks of lint.

    I bet if we dug up every memo and email you’ve written over the past 30 years and read a sentence or two out of context, you’d look pretty racist too.

    It would please me no end if the Senate would advise and consent the President on this nomination using a careful, deliberative process.

  15. Jim Hutchins says:

    Oh, and you’re mistranslating the name of the group “La Raza”. It can be just as easily translated as “The People” or “The Community”. See NCLR’s statement to that effect:

    http://www.nclr.org/section/translation/

  16. Charles Trentelman says:

    Cecil, who does the Straight Dope column in weekly city newspapers, once wrote that it is normal for peoples of various culture to give themselves names that translate, roughly, to “Us” or, like the Cheyene, “Human Beings,” while their name for someone else usually comes out as “Those unwashed heathen over there.”

    He exagerated, but that’s probably the case here. “La Raza” is how they say “Us,” but you can bet it will be mis-used a lot in the coming weeks by people who want it to mean “those racist s-o-bs over there.”

    I would hate to have to defend everything I’ve written over the last 20 months, let alone the last 20 years. I wonder if anyone has located any kindergarten papers Sotomayor wrote yet?

  17. Michael Trujillo says:

    If so many people want a 100% analytical interpretation of the Constitution when it comes to Supreme Court decisions, why don’t we use 9 computers?

    I always thought that judges were supposed to incorporate their individual education, knowledge, and experiences when making decisions about how laws applied? A white, male judge who worked his way up from a job as a sales clerk while getting an undergraduate degree at WSU and a Law Degree from the U of U will not necissarily make the same judicial decisions as a white, male judge from a rich family who got his degrees at Harvard and Yale.

    I hate to use the “E” word, since it seems to be driving so many people bonkers, lately, but I want some empathy in judges, not cold factual analysis.

  18. Kevin says:

    It clearly is a case of the GOP grasping at straws to make hay over a non conservative pick for the Supreme Court. They have nothing on this nomination except that she is a woman and liberal. What is so shameful here is that they took a one liner out of an otherwise very good speech and made it say something it did not say. Their attacks on Ms. Sotomayor was inevitable, but how they have launch their objections with the race card is unconscionable.

  19. Weasler says:

    Hey moron, you need proof that she’s a racist? OK, suppose
    George Bush, Dick Cheney, Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh,
    or some other dirty white make said the following:

    “I would hope that a wise white man with the richness of his
    experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion
    than a Latina female who hasn’t lived that life.”

    Would you conclude that they were racist?

    Idiot!

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