Share on Google Plus Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn Share on PInterest Share on Fark! Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon Tell A Friend 7 (7 Shares)  
Printer Friendly Page Save As Favorite View Favorites View Article Stats   20 comments

OpEdNews Op Eds

Accusations of "Racism" In Sotomayor's Speech Off Base, Out of Touch, and Very Telling

By (about the author)     Permalink       (Page 1 of 1 pages)
Related Topic(s): ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; (more...) ; ; ; ; ; , Add Tags  (less...) Add to My Group(s)

View Ratings | Rate It

opednews.com Headlined to H1 5/28/09

Become a Fan
  (20 fans)


The political sparrring over Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court is rapidly picking up steam, and it seems that all the initial blows are over several lines from  her 2001 speech in Berkeley that was published the following year.  In that speech, Sotomayor took issue with former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s purported statement that “a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases.”

“I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement,” Sotomayor said, “First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, 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.”

“Here you have a racist – you might want to soften that, and you might want to say a reverse racist," conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh said of Sotomayor.  

"Saying that someone would decide a case differently... because she's a Latina, not a white male, that statement by definition is racist," Ann Coulter said on "Good Morning America" today.

Newt Gingrich chimed in too, suggesting that a white man nominated for the Court who said “my experience as a white man makes me better than a Latina woman" would have to withdraw his nomination and, therefore, Sotomayor should withdraw as well.

Similarly Fox News host Megyn Kelly accused Sotomayor of saying "that Latina judges are obviously better than white male judges,” and ABC correspondent Jan Crawford Greenburg claimed that Sotomayor “suggest[ed] that a wise Latino may actually be a better judge than a white man.”

At first blush, it might seem that such accusations have merit, but as the media watchdog organization Media Matters explains, all of the above comments are taken out of context. 

Sotomayor is specifically discussing race and sex discrimination cases, and this is clearly evident in the speech’s previous paragraph.  As such, she is not saying that her experience as a Latina makes her a better judge.  She is saying that her life experiences provide her with perspectives on these specific cases that white men do not have and that these additional perspectives benefit her deliberations.

Basically, what Sotomayor is doing in this speech is examining the influence of her ethnicity on her life and giving voice to some of the complexities of being not only a judge but also a woman and a person of color.  Is this racist?  Or sexist?  Only if you think that we are able to leave all our life experiences at the door when we come to the workplace. 

The almost exclusively white men who have historically made up the U.S. Supreme Court have always ruled, in part, on the basis of their lived experience.  But because they were part of the privileged majority, it occurred neither to them nor their observers to question how their whiteness or their maleness affected their thinking.  Sotomayor is not doing anything different from her predecessors.  The difference is that because she is a woman of color we’re asking these questions…and she’s answering them.  Rather well, I think. 

And yet, racism is, in fact, part of this story. 

While the accusations of “racism” in Sotomayor’s speech are completely off the mark, the conservative response to Sotomayor’s nomination is telling and merits some further scrutiny.

What all of the quoted comments have in common is that rather than discussing her considerable judicial record, the focus seems to be entirely on her status as a woman of color and whether this status should disqualify her from sitting on the Supreme Court.

Never mind that the “concerns” are framed not around her racial/ethnic status itself but around her supposed (and already discredited) “racist” comments about being a better judge than white men and whether she would prioritize Latino (and female) interests over those of the white majority.  This circumvention is just the face of modern racism. It is not acceptable today to explicitly attack individuals because of their race or ethnicity...so the attack is on someone expressing their racial/ethnic identity in some way, for acknowledging that it is part of who they are and part of how they approach their life and work.

Not convinced? Consider this:

We are not in the habit of asking white judicial nominees whether they would privilege White interests or male nominees whether they would privilege male ones.  The fact that such questions are being asked at all of Sotomayor– and asked en masse by both the media and the political elite – suggests that, despite conservative claims to the contrary, we are not yet in a post-racial society.  More than that, they show either deliberate racial bias as Tom Tancredo does (he has a history of using fear tactics over immigration in his Presidential campaign ads) or incredible lack of consciousness about racial double-standards.  As blogger John Amato pointed out, this isn't the pot calling the kettle black. It’s the pot calling out the tablecloth.

 

http://internal.psychology.illinois.edu/~lyubansk/

Mikhail Lyubansky, Ph.D., is a member of the teaching faculty in the Department of Psychology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where he teaches Psychology of Race and Ethnicity, Theories of Psychotherapy, and a graduate-level restorative justice practicum based at a youth detention center. An autobiographical essay of Mikhail's interests in race relations and basketball is available here.

Since 2009, Mikhail has been learning, facilitating, evaluating, and supporting others in the U.S. in learning about Restorative Circles, a restorative practice developed in Brazil by Dominic Barter and his associates. In addition to conflict and restorative practices, Mikhail also has a long-standing interest (going back about 20 years) in race and (more...)
 

Share on Google Plus Submit to Twitter Add this Page to Facebook! Share on LinkedIn Pin It! Add this Page to Fark! Submit to Reddit Submit to Stumble Upon

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Follow Me on Twitter

Contact Author Contact Editor View Authors' Articles

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Ten Things Everyone Should Know About White Privilege Today

The Color of Blood: Racial Dynamics in Harry Potter (Part 2)

Japan's "civilized" response to the earthquake and tsunami has inspired all the wrong questions

A Few Words In Defense of the N-Word, in the Novels of Mark Twain

On 9-11, patriotism, and the U.S. flag

Gates and Crowley: It May Not Be Racist, But It Is Most Certainly Racial

Comments

The time limit for entering new comments on this article has expired.

This limit can be removed. Our paid membership program is designed to give you many benefits, such as removing this time limit. To learn more, please click here.

Comments: Expand   Shrink   Hide  
14 people are discussing this page, with 20 comments
To view all comments:
Expand Comments
(Or you can set your preferences to show all comments, always)

I attended a conference concerning minority educat... by sometimes blinded on Thursday, May 28, 2009 at 10:33:03 PM
I basically agree with  Mike here- the  ... by Mark Sashine on Friday, May 29, 2009 at 8:13:19 AM
"I would hope that a white male with the rich... by Joe Reeser on Friday, May 29, 2009 at 11:04:02 AM
The judicial role involves looking at two aspects ... by Bill Samuel on Friday, May 29, 2009 at 11:06:19 AM
Thank you for a good article here Mike, you made s... by Pat Smith on Friday, May 29, 2009 at 12:27:49 PM
Dear Pat, Thanks for reading and taking the time t... by Mikhail Lyubansky on Friday, May 29, 2009 at 9:35:42 PM
good morning Mikhail , i have read this over a few... by Si'gwetsi' Youngblood on Saturday, May 30, 2009 at 11:14:16 AM
"Here in Pa. I can honestly say the biggest d... by Margaret Bassett on Friday, May 29, 2009 at 1:46:57 PM
Thank you so much Margaret for you kind words, I a... by Pat Smith on Saturday, May 30, 2009 at 10:23:29 AM
Best of luck to Sotomayor if the nomination goes t... by David Waters on Friday, May 29, 2009 at 2:26:07 PM
Tancredo said it as well as anyone.  "Sh... by Bruce Cain on Friday, May 29, 2009 at 2:35:43 PM
If you really are true to your word and not a Repu... by E. Nelson on Sunday, May 31, 2009 at 12:24:16 PM
Lyubansky wrote:"We are not in the habit of a... by z9 m9z on Friday, May 29, 2009 at 3:54:33 PM
With all due respect Mikhail I talk but mostly lis... by Pat Smith on Saturday, May 30, 2009 at 10:41:52 AM
and there is no easy solution. I would point out ... by Mikhail Lyubansky on Saturday, May 30, 2009 at 11:10:10 PM
Mikhail, Excuse me, but I question your claim... by Recce1 on Saturday, May 30, 2009 at 11:52:06 PM
That was well stated, thank you!... by Pat Smith on Sunday, May 31, 2009 at 9:01:58 AM
Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.... by Mikhail Lyubansky on Monday, Jun 1, 2009 at 9:27:00 AM
This has almost become ridiculous. Judge Sotomayer... by sandy valencour on Sunday, May 31, 2009 at 6:10:38 PM
click here... by Mikhail Lyubansky on Thursday, Jun 4, 2009 at 3:04:02 PM