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Sonia Sotomayor and the convenience of crying "Racist!"

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May. 28th, 2009 | 08:37 pm
mood: lovedfull of beef stroganoff
music: Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Rockers to Swallow | Powered by Last.fm

Or, TEAM SOTOMAYOR to Washington!

As the media and some individuals have blown up over the President's nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to SCOTUS, I at first was disappointed but not surprised. It's not as though a made-up furor is new to Supreme Court nominees, and it's not as though it is going to lead to Obama withdrawing her from consideration (the only way she would not make it to the bench, in my opinion; if she gets to confirmation hearings, the makeup of the Judiciary Committee and the full Senate mean she will be confirmed, almost certainly). I tend to shy away from taking campaign promises as gospel, but "we are a better country than this" is an Obama meme from last year that I truly believe, and I can tell he believes. We are better and smarter than to waste all of our time and resources on being better partisans and more adept mudslingers. He is trying to transcend this divide, as evidenced by walking right up to Notre Dame and taking on the protestors, boycotters, and all the rest.

But now I think it's sort of amusing, the accusation that reverse racism is at play in the decisions she has been a part of in her career and/or evident in speeches she has given. Yes, she has a gender and a race; so does everyone, including every current Justice and every nominee to the Court. The President mentioned her gender and her race, as well as her background, because we have never had a Latina Justice before despite the existence of many millions of Latinos in this country. And we have had so few women justices. This is news; it is important to consider. An interesting parallel (though it is also quite different in some ways) for me is the newly appointed dean of the college where I will attend grad school. There are not many Latina women in such positions; will her identity, and the amplification of her identity given the paucity of folks like her in these ranks, affect the way she does business, thus affecting the experience of students like me? Certainly. But the primarily white and primarily male heads of the other schools I applied to also draw on these aspects when running the place. It's foolish to only mention race when you see someone of a race that doesn't fit your mold of the particular place or position in question.

As for Sotomayor, none of this means that she is racist, and it certainly does not mean that she is unqualified. Newt can say it as much as he wants. His opinion doesn't matter here, though his use of her own ethnicity as a potential problem is both lazy and disingenuous; like, that's really the best you can do? Unless a huge unknown is expressed in her confirmation hearings (which I doubt, especially given that she has been confirmed to a bench by the Senate before), Judge Sotomayor is headed for Washington, and she will probably be there far longer than our memory of the shameful accusations and ignorant threats that folks are trying to use as roadblocks on her way there.

I thought I had much more to say on the topic, but I think that actually covers it! Back to regular, non-political LJ.

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Comments {2}


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from: twencenboy
date: May. 29th, 2009 11:47 am (UTC)

Judge Sotomayor is absolutely qualified, and I think she will make an excellent Justice. That said, while I think she should mention that her race, gender, and upbringing will give her a perspective that the Supreme Court definitely needs, I have absolutely no idea what she was thinking when she said that a Latina was likelier to come to the correct legal decision than a white man. Diversity and the law is about bringing different perspectives to make the law more equitable, not about ranking perspectives, or seeing who can check the most "traditionally unrepresented" boxes.

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from: silverthief2
date: May. 29th, 2009 07:38 pm (UTC)

Agreed; I'm somewhat heartened by other remarks she made in that talk, but overall I just want to see what she says to the Judiciary Committee and decide from there.

ETA: Also, that was a really odd choice of LJ icon on my part.

Edited at 2009-05-29 07:38 pm (UTC)

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