Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor on Latina identity (Updated)

The speech from which the Republicans draw one of their "gotcha" quotes from Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor is available on UC-Berkeley's public Web site: A Latina judge's voice: Judge Sonia Sotomayor's 2001 address to the 'Raising the Bar' symposium at the UC Berkeley School of Law.

The one-sentence quote in question is, "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."

Even standing alone out of context, it's nothing that I find scary. She's expressing a pious hope that a Latina judge like herself would make wise decisions based on her background. The speech was part of a symposium at UC-Berkeley's Boalt Law School on "Raising the Bar: Latino and Latina Presence in the Judiciary and the Struggle for Representation." She discusses the question of how judge's personal background can effect their understanding of cases that come before them. You can judge for yourself how it looks in the full context.

Of course, we'll soon be hearing it corrupted to, "Sotomayor says that Hispanics make better judges than whites." The current head of the Republican Party, junkie bigot Rush Limbaugh, is already calling her a "reverse racist". (He calls Obama that, too.) [Update 05/27/09: That didn't take long! If Newt Says It, It Must Be True by David Kurtz TPM 05/27/09.]

This is a whole paragraph from a different part of the speech. It includes several sentences, which means it will be too difficult for most of our ADD-minded infotainment pundits to process, or even read. But for those who can digest more than one sentence per hour, I think it's pretty interesting:

America has a deeply confused image of itself that is in perpetual tension. We are a nation that takes pride in our ethnic diversity, recognizing its importance in shaping our society and in adding richness to its existence. Yet, we simultaneously insist that we can and must function and live in a race and color-blind way that ignore these very differences that in other contexts we laud. That tension between "the melting pot and the salad bowl" -- a recently popular metaphor used to described New York's diversity - is being hotly debated today in national discussions about affirmative action. Many of us struggle with this tension and attempt to maintain and promote our cultural and ethnic identities in a society that is often ambivalent about how to deal with its differences. In this time of great debate we must remember that it is not political struggles that create a Latino or Latina identity. I became a Latina by the way I love and the way I live my life. My family showed me by their example how wonderful and vibrant life is and how wonderful and magical it is to have a Latina soul. They taught me to love being a Puerto Riqueña and to love America and value its lesson that great things could be achieved if one works hard for it. But achieving success here is no easy accomplishment for Latinos or Latinas, and although that struggle did not and does not create a Latina identity, it does inspire how I live my life.
Oh, and good for Obama for nominating Sotomayor!!!

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