Monday, June 1, 2009

Sotomayor:"Physiological Differences" ?!? It Looks A Lot Like Racism

Sonia Sotomayor gave this speech at a University of California at Berkeley Law School Raising the Bar Symposium. The symposium was specifically called, "The Bar: Latino and Latina Presence in Judiciary and the Struggle for Representation."

These are Judge Sotomayor‘s words in complete context. “Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, a possibility I abhor less or discount less than my colleague Judge Cedarbaum, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice O’Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O’Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. 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.”

Sotomayor’s words in context are clearly much worse than the one line that was being reported by news networks. According to this statement there are implications that Sotomayor thinks that whether a Latina woman had experience or not, because of the inherent physiological and cultural differences that a Latina woman has, that would automatically make her decisions better than a white male’s decisions. This statement presents major problems with how this judicial philosophy would effect her judicial decisions. Would her decisions always favor a Latina woman or a woman with inherent physiological and cultural characteristics? If a white man had the reverse of this statement than his nomination would have been dead in the water? Is there a double standard in our society? Does society today allow for reverse discrimination? Does society by allowing or accepting reverse discrimination think that two wrongs make a right? Citizens’ in the United States should not be advocating for any form of racism. Racism is inherently wrong no matter who it is directed toward.

Here are 3 links regarding Sotomayor's speech: http://berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2009/05/26_sotomayor.shtml
http://foundry.heritage.org/2009/05/28/dont-forget-sotomayors-inherent-physiological-or-cultural-differences/
http://foundry.heritage.org/2009/05/27/a-troubling-decision-a-troubling-speech-and-a-troubling-nomination/

10 comments:

Kyle R. Cupp said...

Quoting a complete text doesn’t establish complete context. For that, you need to show the situation in which that text emerged. For instance, what was Sotomayer responding to? A question? Something someone said? Also, what cases was she speaking of? Every possible case? Particular types of cases?

Teresa said...

Kyle,
Here this might help with presenting the complete context. This is exactly where she said this complete speech.

Kyle said...

I don't see a link. Do you post one?

Kyle said...

Typo: did.

Teresa said...

Here are a few links on Sotomayor's speech that I posted on the blog.

Kevin T. Rice said...

I think I see the confusion here. Teresa attached links to the original blog post, not to her responding comment.

The first link not only delivers the complete text, but it establishes a context. The fuller text and context do nothing to alter the apparent meaning of Judge Sotomayor's remarks, which, in my opinion, express an attitude that fits the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of racism as well as sexism. She clearly believes that a Latina judge will generally be superior in wisdom than a white male judge, and that this greater wisdom might just as plausibly be due to inherent physiological traits as due to differences in cultural background or life experiences. A white judge of either sex saying the same thing about non-white judges, especially non-white female judges, would be universally condemned. The certainty that he would not sit on the Supreme Court would be the least of his worries. He'd probably have to go into hiding if he liked breathing and wanted to keep doing it.

Kyle said...

Thanks, Kevin. I saw those after Teresa's second comment. My bad. I will offer my opinion on that matter shortly.

Kyle said...

Sotomayor was talking specifically about cases involving race and sex discrimination. Her point was that someone such as a Latina woman would generally be in a better position to judge such cases than a white male who has never experienced such discrimination. Her larger point, which I don't find at all troubling, is that "our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging."

Teresa said...

I believe Sotomayor's statement shows that she has a superiority complex with regard to race, which in effect could be construed as reverse racism.

Posing a question to you:
What if a causcasian male judge was presenting a speech to an all white male lawyers function and he had stated that as a white male judge whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural characteristics I could well make better decisions in court rulings that involve caucasians due to my ethnic background.
Would that be considered a racist statement? Or do you believe it is okay because a white man would probably understand a case involving a white male better than a Latina woman would?

Kyle said...

I think it would depend upon the precise meaning of the judge’s statement. Let’s say that white males were the minority in our society and had faced a long history of systematic racial and sexual discrimination. In this case, a white male judge might well be able to empathize with and understand the situation of a case involving the discrimination of white males better than a judge of a sex and race that had not faced any such discrimination. If that is all the judge means, I wouldn’t call that racism or sexism. Being a judge requires more than just interpreting the law abstractly; a judge has to apply the law to his or her understanding of a concrete situation, and being of a certain race or sex can, in certain circumstances, give one a better understanding of a situation.