The Richness of Her Experiences

Vincent Carroll on Sotomayor’s sexism/racism:

If racial and gender bigotry truly have no place in American public life today, then Judge Sonia Sotomayor, during her confirmation hearing for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, needs to utterly repudiate her 2001 assertion that “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.”

Putting that statement “in context” or explaining what she “really meant” will not do. Nor can Judge Sotomayor credibly argue that her assertion was an ill-considered mistake, since it was part of a prepared speech at the Berkeley school of law. No, she needs to reject it as the expression of bigotry that it was.

Even then she’d be getting off easy. After all, as Stuart Taylor wrote last weekend in the National Journal, “Any prominent white male would be instantly and properly banished from polite society as a racist and a sexist for making an analogous claim of ethnic and gender superiority or inferiority.”

Sotomayor, by contrast, is on the verge of a lifetime post on the most powerful court in the land.

While Sotomayor’s comparison of the relative wisdom of Latina women and white men has garnered most of the attention in her Berkeley speech, it was hardly her only eyebrow-raising remark that day. After wondering “whether by ignoring our differences as women or men of color we do a disservice both to the law and society,” she then added, “Whatever the reasons why we may have different perspectives, either as some theorists suggest because of our cultural experiences or as others postulate because we have basic differences in logic and reasoning, are in many respects a small part of a larger practical question we as women and minority judges in society in general must address.”

Is she really suggesting that men and women, as well as people of different races, “have basic differences in logic and reasoning” in approaching legal issues? Once again, can you imagine a prominent white male saying such a thing without a legion of critics demanding that he do public penance?

Why, when Larry Summers was Harvard president, his claim that the distribution of innate aptitude might partly explain the ratio of men and women in science careers provoked such a furor that he was forced to backtrack, grovel and eventually resign (although as director of the White House’s National Economic Council, he certainly landed on his feet).

Sotomayor’s statement was far less nuanced than Summers’, and yet was obviously deliberate, since she restated it within minutes.

“Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences . . .,” she declared, “our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging.”…

And in a news article in today’s Wall Street Journal, we read this item which was curiously omitted from the online version:

…[Manhattan District Attorney Robert] Morgenthau says [Sotomayor] told him she nearly flunked out her first year at Princeton because her essay-writing skills were poor. A professor took her in over the summer, he says, nearly every day to hone her writing…

Is it safe to assume that Ms. Sotomayor would not have been admitted to one of the most selective universities in the world if it weren’t for her being born a Puerto Rican? Is it also safe to assume that Princeton professors don’t routinely take in students over the summer and teach them stuff they should have learned in junior and senior high school?

And is it rude of me to wonder why, given the special treatment she received, she had no “empathy” for the New Haven fire fighters who were denied promotions because of their race (Caucasian) and whose case she summarily dismissed when she was on the appeals court?

Just asking.

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