Who’s To Judge?

Sotomayor and the defense of racial identity as judicial wisdom.

by Victor Davis Hanson

NRO’s The Corner

When Words Don’t Mean Anything

Rather than an attempt to defend empirically Sotomayor’s suggestion that Latinas are superior, in the judicial sense, to white men, we have been given a variety of postmodern contexts, constructing what she “really” meant: She was merely talking about the advantages of poverty that she thinks she has experienced that are not true of white men; she was only “joking”; she was making an intricate case for diversity, etc. — any explanation other than the natural one that was elaborated on later in her diatribe, namely that she believes the color and gender of a person impart wisdom or less than wisdom.

With the advent of Obamaworld, the centrist veneer sometimes rubs off the race/class/gender/religion talk and we see the fundamentalism in its essence — in the impromptu moments of the campaign it was Michelle’s “mean country” and first-time pride in the U.S., Obama’s “typical white person,” Pennsylvania clingers, and original contorted defense of Reverend Wright, then there was Eric Holder’s “cowards” outburst, and now Sotomayor’s Latina tribalism.

In each case, once the race/class/gender animosity is revealed, there is a brief hesitation to see how well the media will come to the rescue and “contextualize” the remark, and when that fails there is the obligatory qualifier “maybe not the best way of putting it,” “wrong word,” “if I had to say it over, I’d . . .” The point being that, in the D.C. gotcha culture, these are never gotchas due to the race, gender, or class of the perpetrator (sort of like the schizophrenic attitude toward plagiarism that exempts a Maureen Dowd, or Joe Biden, or intolerance of supernatural religion that ignores an Arianna Huffington’s John-Roger or Hillary séances with Eleanor Roosevelt).

I think the unifying explanation is that such wonderful people either simply are incapable of racialist remarks, or that the good that they otherwise stand for so overshadows the embarrassments as to make them not embarrassments at all.

Perhaps a Defense Rather than an Equivocation?

One confusing thing about the Sotomayor examination is the apparent disavowal of her remarks about the advantages a diversity background brings to a judge — to the point of a Latina being a better justice than her white-male counterpart.

The fact that this was not an ad hoc comment, but published, reiterated in various forms throughout the article, and echoed through other public statements would suggest that Justice Sotomayor really does believe in racial exceptionalism.

That said, one would like her not to parse past statements, but to offer instead a reasoned defense of what are apparently long-held views. I find most disturbing that such advocates publish racialist views in journals with transliterated titles that include phraseology like “The Race” (La Raza), and yet do not carry that pride and confidence into the broader public sphere where such views might be subject to vigorous debate. In other words, I would like a Judge Sotomayor to say, “Look, I’m not going to apologize. For much of my life I’ve believed, spoken, and written about the myth of judicial objectivity divorced from considerations of race, class, and gender. In short, I believe women of color bring intrinsic advantages over white males to the bench, and here is why . . .”

©2009 Victor Davis Hanson

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