Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

“They All Look Alike?”

nationalreviewcover Right wing attacks on Judge Sotomayor as “reverse racist” have not only been ridiculous, but exposed their own racism in BOLD letters.  There was convicted Watergate felon G. Gordon Liddy using his radio show to call Judge Sotomayor a racist for belonging to the National Council of La Raza, the largest Latino/a civil rights organization in the nation.  He incorrectly said that La Raza means “the race.” Not really.  It means “people,” without any of the negative overtones of the English word “race,” just as the English term “folk” doesn’t have the negative connotations of the German word “volk.” But in the process of making this slur, Liddy not only mistranslated, but referred to the Spanish language as illegal alien.  Liddy also worried about Sotomayor’s menstrual cycle on the bench! (That should unite women everywhere on her side!)

Then there was former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO), whose presidential campaign last year brought anti-immigration xenophobia to new lows, who referred to La Raza as “Hispanic KKK without the hoods!”  Pat Buchanan, who helped Richard Nixon design the race-baiting “Southern Strategy” for winning the presidency by courting racist whites fleeing the Democratic Party after it embrace human rights, uses the most offensive terms to refer to Judge Sotomayor.  Others incorrectly referred to her as a single mother (because all Puerto Ricans are, right?).  Newt Gingrich called her “racist Latina woman” on Twitter—but now tries to take that back. (Newt Gingrich repeatedly played the race card as Speaker of the House.)

But now the rightwing rag, The National Review, takes the cake.  The cover story is of Judge Sotomayor  and makes fun of her remark (repeatedly taken out of context) about “a wise Latina.” But why does the cover paint Judge Sotomayor as an Asian Buddhist?  Do all non-whites look alike to the editors of the National Review?

P.S. The charges that Judge Sotomayor is a racist are completely undermined by an examination of her record. SCOTUSblog examined every case of racial discrimination that came before Judge Sotomayor and found that she denied discrimination 80% of the time.

June 5, 2009 - Posted by | judges, law, race


  1. This nomination has exposed the dark underbelly of racism in today’s GOP. This is one more incrediblly stupid nail in the rapidly closing coffin of the late GOP.

    Comment by Ralph | June 5, 2009

  2. Attacks on Judge Sotomayor due to her race or ethnicity are wrong. What should be addressed is her record as a judge and her judicial philosophy. Such attacks are not limited to the Right-the Left has engaged in these tactics too over the years. Regardless of who stoops to such devices they are wrong !

    Comment by Paul | June 5, 2009

  3. The vitriol being spilled over Judge Sotomayer leads me to wonder – “Do we even deserve a Judge of this woman’s caliber?” Then, for Heaven’s sake, do we even deserve Mr. Obama? God have mercy on us. Where is the Power of God in us to bring about healing of minds and attitudes? The wound of my people has been treated lightly and the vile stench of our wretchedness is on the wind. Christ have mercy. Thanks for this post, Michael, even as much as it hurts to read it.

    Comment by Tom | June 5, 2009

  4. I haven’t read any of that stuff but I have read Judge Sotomayor’s speech, which she evidently made 4-5 times in a decade.

    She expresses a “Legal Realism” philosophy of judging that rejects strict impartiality as unrealistic, and recognizes the contribution of all judges’ humanity: genders, leanings, backgrounds and expreiences. Nevertheless, she concludes her reasoning with the idea that wise Latinas make better decisions than their white male counterparts, moving American jurisprudence toward the plaintiff in discrimination cases. (The Buddha may represent wisdom, but weird choice when “Latina” was her focus).

    Her comments highlight an existing debate on judicial philosophy, I think. She expresses “legal realism,” in which judges’ genders, cultural background and life experiences factor in. Others (Sandra Day O’Conner, for one) have stated the more traditional aspiration toward strict impartiality.

    Sotomayor was being candid about whether this is realistic or desirable. Judges aren’t robots; if that were the ideal, we might as well use computer programs. We want human judges. But is legal realism, as expressed by Sotomayor and others, achieve impartiality? Or is it something else altogether?

    I don’t know, but I like her candor. She faced the debate head-on and took a side. Her wise-Latina conclusion played well before her audiences, but not as well now.

    This could be a good debate, not be to trivilized. It has a necessary gender and race component — Sotomayor candidly raised it — but as usual that has been sensationalized, obscuring the underlying issues.

    Comment by K Gray | June 6, 2009

  5. Tell me when the Left has attacked a nominee for SCOTUS based on his or her race? And please document this.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | June 6, 2009

  6. Thanks, K. for noticing one of the real issues in this nomination. Like you, I have read much of the record (and, as Nina Totenberg says, “Boy, does Sonia Sotomayor recycle her material!”). As a perspectivalist, I share much of her legal realism, though I wish she were more liberal in her judicial philosophy. Her record shows here to be a centrist very like Souter.

    But any possible realistic debate about judicial philosophy has been marred by the incredibly stupid, racist and sexist attacks of the GOP–repeating the nastiness of the McCain campaign’s later months.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | June 6, 2009

  7. The hub-bub about the comment is so ridiculous, everyone’s point of view is informed by his or her identity. For example, the decision to depict Sonia Sotomayor as an Asian Buddhist under the headline “Wise Latina Woman” was made by someone whose identity and life experiences has made them insensitive to the effects f racial stereotypes. The cover itself illustrates the harms of only representing one perspective… I found this interesting video about it where they compare the cover to the Obama fist-pound New Yorker cover: http://www.newsy.com/videos/wise_latina_cover_to_cover

    Comment by robot | June 9, 2009

  8. I thought of the New Yorker fist bump cover. However, it’s clear from the inside story that the editors of The New Yorker were attempting to make fun of the rightwing smears about the Obamas, whereas the editors of The National Review buy into the attacks on Sotomayor.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | June 9, 2009

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