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‘Wise Latina’ still a problem for Sotomayor

As you have no doubt heard by now, much has been made about Supreme Court nominee, Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s 2001 speech during which she said, “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.”

I haven’t thought much of the allegations that Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s wise Latina comment might be evidence that she is racist and therefore, haven’t bothered to write about the issue.

Among the materials Judge Sotomayor delivered to the Senate Judiciary Committee were more speeches in which she said something very similar to her “wise Latina” remark.

We now know that Judge Sotomayor made remarks suggesting race and gender should affect a judge’s decisions on least five separate occasions:

  • A 1994 speech, in which Judge Sotomayor said: “I would hope that a wise woman with the richness of her experience would, more often than not, reach a better conclusion. What is better? I … hope that better will mean a more compassionate and caring conclusion.”
  • A 1999 speech to the Women’s Bar Association of New York State, in which Sotomayor invoked “sister power,” called for the selection of a third woman Supreme Court justice — which she would now be — and used phrasing similar to that in the Berkeley speech. “I would hope that a wise woman with the richness of her experiences would, more often than not, reach a better conclusion.”

So much for President Obama’s claim that Judge Sotomayor simply misspoke.

One might still be skeptical as to whether Judge Sotomayor’s speeches suggest she might be racist. But if you take her speeches and substitute the word “white” for the words “Latino/a,” “Hispanic,” “Puerto Rican” and “people of color” you might have second thoughts. At Sweetness & Light they made those substitutions to Judge Sotomayor’s 2001 “wise Latina” speech and the result is devastating.

Here are the first four pargraphs:

I intend tonight to touch upon the themes that this conference will be discussing this weekend and to talk to you about my WHITE identity, where it came from, and the influence I perceive it has on my presence on the bench.

Who am I? I am a “Newyork-Caucasian.” For those of you on the West Coast who do not know what that term means: I am a born and bred New Yorker of WHITE-born parents who came to the states during World War II…

The story of that success is what made me and what makes me the WHITE person that I am. The WHITE side of my identity was forged and closely nurtured by my family through our shared experiences and traditions…

My family showed me by their example how wonderful and vibrant life is and how wonderful and magical it is to have a WHITE soul. They taught me to love being a WHITE person 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 WHITES, and although that struggle did not and does not create a WHITE identity, it does inspire how I live my life…

You can read the rest here, but I think you get the idea.

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