I’m working on a longer and I hope more well-researched piece on this topic, but let me jump in with this:
Former Speaker Newt Gingrich has joined Rush Limbaugh and others in attacking Judge Sonia Sotomayor as a racist. In a recent post on Twitter, Gingrich wrote:
“White man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw. Latina woman racist should also withdraw.”
The sole basis of that explosive charge is a single sentence in a much longer speech by Sotomayor in 2002. In that speech, she notes that “there can never be a universal definition of wise,” then states:
“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.”
In other words, Sotomayor hopes that her life experiences would make her a better judge than someone without those experiences. On that basis, she is supposedly a racist who must now withdraw.
The stupidity of that argument is stunning.
As I noted, that single sentence comes from a major speech, available here in its entirety. The following excerpts help put the sentence in context:
“…. Judge Cedarbaum nevertheless believes that judges must transcend their personal sympathies and prejudices and aspire to achieve a greater degree of fairness and integrity based on the reason of law. Although I agree with and attempt to work toward Judge Cedarbaum’s aspiration, I wonder whether achieving that goal is possible in all or even in most cases. And I wonder whether by ignoring our differences as women or men of color we do a disservice both to the law and society….
I accept the thesis of a law school classmate, Professor Steven Carter of Yale Law School, in his affirmative action book that in any group of human beings there is a diversity of opinion because there is both a diversity of experiences and of thought. ….
The aspiration to impartiality is just that — it’s an aspiration because it denies the fact that we are by our experiences making different choices than others.
…. The Minnesota Supreme Court has given an example of this. As reported by Judge Patricia Wald, formerly of the D.C. Circuit Court, three women on the Minnesota Court with two men dissenting agreed to grant a protective order against a father’s visitation rights when the father abused his child. The Judicature Journal has at least two excellent studies on how women on the courts of appeal and state supreme courts have tended to vote more often than their male counterpart to uphold women’s claims in sex discrimination cases and criminal defendants’ claims in search and seizure cases.
…. 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 (v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruling that ended segregation).
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.
…. Each day on the bench I learn something new about the judicial process and about being a professional Latina woman in a world that sometimes looks at me with suspicion. I am reminded each day that I render decisions that affect people concretely and that I owe them constant and complete vigilance in checking my assumptions, presumptions and perspectives and ensuring that to the extent that my limited abilities and capabilities permit me, that I reevaluate them and change as circumstances and cases before me requires. I can and do aspire to be greater than the sum total of my experiences but I accept my limitations. I willingly accept that we who judge must not deny the differences resulting from experience and heritage but attempt, as the Supreme Court suggests, continuously to judge when those opinions, sympathies and prejudices are appropriate.”
Quite the racist, isn’t she?