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May 29, 2009
The Context of Sotomayor's ideas on race
Liberal, left wing bloggers such as Daily Kos and Glenn Greenwald are labeling hypocrites those questioning the Sotomayor nomination to the Supreme Court because of statements
she made regarding her interpretation of the law
as 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," said Judge Sotomayor,
They are doing so by triumphantly highlighting Justice Sam Alito's statements he made during his confirmation hearings.
that "he cared for the little guy," Alito said that his family's experience as immigrants influenced his outlook on immigration cases.
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...
So when Sam Alito said his family's immigrant experience influenced his outlook, it was okay, but now that Sonia Sotomayor (who, like Alito, is an appeleta judge) has been nominated to the Supreme Court, she's a "racist?"
Fair enough point. Well, not really because Kos and Greenwald didn't give us the entire quote, just strategic excerpts, with strategic emphasis. A little context is in order. Puhlease.
The context is the confirmation hearing; Alito answered a question from Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) and surrounded the above with some qualifications.
COBURN: You know, I think at times during these hearings you have been unfairly criticized or characterized as that you don't care about the less fortunate, you don't care about the little guy, you dont't care about the weak or the innocent.
Coburn apparently felt compelled to ask these questions in a public confirmation hearing because of the harsh opposition to Alito from the Democrats who apparently weren't too concerned about alienating Italian-American males, Catholic American males or Italian Catholic American males with their undisguised hostility to an Italian-American Catholic white man proposed to the Supreme Court by President George W. Bush (R).
And speaking of context, just where did Sotomayor utter her now infamous statement? According to the New York Times
The following is the text of the Judge Mario G. Olmos Memorial Lecture in 2001, delivered at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, by appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor. It was published in the Spring 2002 issue of Berkeley La Raza Law Journal, a symposium issue entitled "Raising the Bar: Latino and Latina Presence in the Judiciary and the Struggle for Representation," and it is reproduced here with permission from the journal.
So in this friendly ethnic, seemingly professional victim atmosphere, Sonia Sotomayor gave her real opinion about ethnicity, gender and her unique "richness of experiences." Did she recommend that if Hispanics--male and female--wanted to increase their "presence in the judiciary" they should do as she did--study hard, work hard, some sacrifice along the way and succeed through merit? Hmmm. In addition to her own family that's what millions of Americans, including Alito's and my own did. It is the American story, unique perhaps in each family, common enough to millions; an enriching experience--and a tough one--for all.
Oh, and not so incidentally, Sotomayor's speech was published in La Raza Law Journal. La Raza means The Race. Wow, imagine the fireworks if Scalia had initially written about his judicial attitudes in a legal journal titled The Superiority of the White Latin Italian Male Law Journal; The Superiority of the Catholic Male Law Journal, etc.
So Kos, Greenwald and others--you've raised some interesting points. Can you defend them, instead of putting others down? Let the contextual clashes begin. And let liberty and justice for all prevail.