We’ve all seen/heard/read the “wise Latina” remark made by Judge Sonia Sotomayor in a 2001 speech given at the UC Berkeley School of Law. Here’s the actual sentence the Republicans have been hopping up and down about: “[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.”
The Republicans want you to think that this sentence proves that Sotomayor is partial, or has “a prejudice issue.” They really, really hope you didn’t read the rest of the speech, especially the sentence that comes four paragraphs later: “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 the 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 experience and heritage but attempt, as the Supreme Court suggests, continuously to judge when those opinions, sympathies and prejudices are appropriate.”
It seems that two things have Sotomayor’s detractors upset. The first is that she honest about the human experience, acknowledging that everyone comes to the table with a wealth of experiences, ideas, fears, hopes, schools of thought, and belief systems, and that we each function from that rich matrix. The difference between Sotomayor and some others is that she tries to be conscious of that in her daily job.
It also seems, however, that the subtext, at least for Republican senators and professional talkers, is that, somehow, they are mad at Sotomayor because she is proud of her upbringing.
In this same speech, Sotomayor spends some time at the beginning talking about her childhood, her favorite foods, the music and games she grew up with, the way the family and neighborhood interacted. She has taken some mild ridicule from talking heads of both parties for admitting she liked patitas de cerdo con garbonzo—pig tripe. Basically, Republicans like Senators Sessions and Graham seem prepared to beat up on her because sees her background, not as an obstacle to be overcome, but the source of her strength.
They seem to feel that anyone who didn’t grow up to be what they are—male, white, and for the most part, graying—should apologize for it.
The vocal Republican minority is not making itself look responsible and thoughtful here. The face they are showing to the public is one some of us are old enough to remember, and the rest of us have seen plenty of times in movies and on TV; the plump, privileged white guy who doesn’t want the country-club integrated; who thinks decisions that support him and his cronies are somehow “unbiased” and those that look baldly and honestly at the law and both sides of the question are “partial.” They look like guys who are used to getting their own way and don’t want to face the risk that they might not get their way all the time. And why is it that the people who always get their way are the first to kick their feet and wail “It’s not fair!” when the decision goes the other way once in a while?
So, Sotomayor does indeed have “a prejudice issue.” The Republicans are prejudiced against anything that upsets their recollection of the status quo—that being around 1952. They look like bigots, but more importantly, they look like big scaredy-cats.
A wise Latina! Supreme Court Justice! Eeek! OMG!!
Cowboy up, guys. C’mon, she’s got her leg in a cast! I bet, if worse came to worst, at least some of you could ourun her.