Sotomayor, Minority Status, and “Empathy”

Ken AshfordSupreme CourtLeave a Comment

The Republicans are going to go ballistic about this quote from the Supreme Court nominee:

"[W]hen a case comes before me involving, let's say, someone who is an immigrant — and we get an awful lot of immigration cases and naturalization cases — I can't help but think of my own ancestors, because it wasn't that long ago when they were in that position.

"And so it's my job to apply the law. It's not my job to change the law or to bend the law to achieve any result. But when I look at those cases, I have to say to myself, and I do say to myself, 'You know, this could be your grandfather, this could be your grandmother. They were not citizens at one time, and they were people who came to this country.' …

"When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender. And I do take that into account."

You see?  She is going to take her heritage and background "into account"!

Except — gotcha!  — that quote wasn't from Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor; it was from Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito during his 2005 confirmation hearings.

Here's what Glenn Greenwald has to say regarding Justice Sam Alito on empathy and judging:

Anyone who is objecting now to Sotomayor's alleged "empathy" problem but who supported Sam Alito and never objected to this sort of thing ought to have their motives questioned (and the same is true for someone who claims that a person who overcame great odds to graduate at the top of their class at Princeton, graduate Yale Law School, and then spent time as a prosecutor, corporate lawyer, district court judge and appellate court judge must have been chosen due to "identity politics").  And the idea that her decision in Ricci demonstrates some sort of radicalism — when she was simply affirming the decision of a federal district judge, was part of a unanimous circuit panel in doing so, was supported by a majority of her fellow Circuit judges who refused to re-hear the case, and will, by all accounts, have at least several current Supreme Court Justices side with her — is frivolous on its face.

Yup.  So these talking heads are going to have to explain why Sam Alito is NOT a racist:

And while I'm at it, what's this with calling Sotomayor a "reverse racist"?  That's what Rush and others are saying, based on an out-of-context quote in which she expresses the hope that her life experiences as a minority and woman would make her a better jurist than a white man who didn't have those experiences.

Why is that reverse racism?  If it's anything, it's racism (and it's not that).  If racism is not liking someone of a different ethnic group, then "reverse racism" would be not liking someone of your own group, I would think.

Sure, I get the reasoning at work here: those who hate whites are reverse racists; whites who hate others are regular ol' racists.  But isn't making that distinction itself racist?

UPDATEMark Krekorian over at NRO's The Corner has found yet another reason to dislike Sotomayor (pronounced Sot-oh-may-YORE):

Deferring to people's own pronunciation of their names should obviously be our first inclination, but there ought to be limits. Putting the emphasis on the final syllable of Sotomayor is unnatural in English (which is why the president stopped doing it after the first time at his press conference), unlike my correspondent's simple preference for a monophthong over a diphthong, and insisting on an unnatural pronunciation is something we shouldn't be giving in to.

To which I respond….


By the way, EVERYTHING about Sotomayor you read, see and hear over the next few months is just political theatre.  She's going to be confirmed.  That's so patently obvious that one wonders why anyone is bothering to object.