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Linda Chavez
Linda Chavez
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Of Race, Gender and Justice

Comment

This week I was asked to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. Here's what I said.

I testify today not as a wise Latina woman, but as an American who believes that skin color and national origin should not determine who gets a job, promotion, or public contract, or who gets into college or receives a scholarship.

My message today is straightforward. Do not vote to confirm Judge Sonia Sotomayor. I say this with some regret, because I believe Judge Sotomayor's personal story is an inspiring one, which proves that this is truly a land of opportunity where circumstances of birth and class do not determine whether you can succeed.

Unfortunately, based on her statements both on and off the bench, I do not believe Judge Sotomayor necessarily shares that view. It is clear from her record that she has drunk deep from the well of identity politics. I know a lot about that well, and I can tell you that it is dark and poisonous. It is, in my view, impossible to be a fair judge and also believe that one's race, ethnicity, and sex should determine how someone will rule as a judge.

Despite her assurances to this Committee over the last few days that her statement 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" was simply "a rhetorical flourish that fell flat," nothing could be further from the truth. Judge Sotomayor's words weren't uttered off the cuff. They were carefully crafted, repeated — not just once or even twice — but at least seven times over several years. If Judge Sotomayor were a white man who suggested that whites or males made better judges, we would not be having this discussion because the nominee would have been forced to withdraw once those words became public.

Judge Sotomayor's offensive words are a reflection of her much greater body of work as an ethnic activist and judge. Identity politics is at the core of who this woman is. And let me be clear here, I am not talking about the understandable pride in one's ancestry or ethnic roots, which is both common and natural in a country as diverse and pluralistic as ours.

Identity politics involves a sense of grievance against the majority, a feeling that racism permeates American society and its institutions, and the belief that members of one's own group are victims in a perpetual power struggle with the majority.

From her earliest days at Princeton University and later Yale Law School to her 12-year involvement with the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund to her speeches and writings, including her jurisprudence, Judge Sotomayor has consistently displayed an affinity for such views.

As an undergraduate, she actively pushed for race-based goals and timetables in faculty hiring.

In her senior thesis, she refused to identify the U.S. Congress by its proper name, instead referring to it as the "North American Congress" or the "Mainland Congress."

During her tenure with the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, she urged quota-seeking lawsuits challenging civil-service exams.

She opposed the death penalty as racist.

She made dubious arguments in support of bilingual education and tried to equate English language requirements with national origin discrimination.

As a judge, she dissented from an opinion that the Voting Rights Act does not give prison inmates the right to vote.

Finally, and perhaps most dramatically, she showed in the New Haven firefighters case a willingness to let her policy preferences guide her, ruling that it was perfectly lawful for the city there to throw out the results of a promotion exam because those who did well on it were the wrong color.

Although she has attempted this week to back away from her own words — and has accused her critics of taking them out of context — the record is clear: Identity politics is at the core of Judge Sotomayor's self-definition. It has guided her involvement in advocacy groups, been the topic of much of her public writing and speeches, and influenced her interpretation of law.

There is no reason to believe that her elevation to the Supreme Court will temper this inclination, and much reason to fear that it will play an important role in how she approaches the cases that will come before her if she is confirmed. I therefore strongly urge you not to confirm Judge Sotomayor as an associate justice of the Supreme Court.

Linda Chavez is the author of "An Unlikely Conservative: The Transformation of an Ex-Liberal." To find out more about Linda Chavez, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2009 CREATORS.COM



Comments

4 Comments | Post Comment
This country is slowly slipping away, The air is filled with only political pollution, and our backbone is broken, check out www.backbonemusic.net
Comment: #1
Posted by: Kevin
Fri Jul 17, 2009 4:12 AM
I will be pleased to see another woman on the court. While we may believe that the U.S. has come a long way, we are clearly the world leader when it comes to race and sex discrimination. Women are not viewed the same as men when salaries are set, and that fact was found in every company I worked in during my career. In the Ricci case, the judge should have stated that the City of New Haven failed long before the Promotions Board Test, it all started in the class rooms where young people of color were told, "You can not be a doctor or lawyer - you will work in a factory, or become a secretary, a policeman or fireman". While many people believe Judge Sonia Sotomayor's appointment to the court is bad for America, I believe it to be a valued appointment, not because she is a Latina Woman, but because she is very intelligent, hard working, and expects excellence from those around her. I now would like to see another woman appointed to the court, and eventually, a woman will become Chief Justice.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Terry
Fri Jul 17, 2009 5:26 AM
All this Bull about Sotomayor's climb from poverty to the postion of Judge is a bunch of Bull. This country is full of stories like hers because of the country we are. If a white conservatiove female did the same thing and there are plenty, the Demosocialist would and have called them bigots. Even if the person is of color the Dem-sos would be-little that person. If you are of color and follow the Demosocialist line and drink the koolaid then you are great but if you don't, they attack you personally. Sotomayor is nothing special just another minority that took advantage of the free education and used that minority status to get ahead. So when Schumur cries about her heroic advancements one wonders what's in that koolaid. This appointment will turn out to distroy the constitution and this country. She thinks she can make judgements based on her emotions and to hell with the law. She really is a racist who will side with any minority suit that comes across her bench. God help us and wake up America.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Walt Perry
Tue Jul 21, 2009 7:59 AM
Thank you for testifying and stating the relavent facts regarding Judge Sonia Sotomayor. It is my hope that the Senators will pay heed to your comments and recommendation.
Tim Murphy
Comment: #4
Posted by: Timothy F. Murphy
Wed Jul 22, 2009 7:21 AM
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