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June 23, 2009

          Is Sonia Sotomayor a racist? You bet your black/white/brown/yellow hind she is. So are you. So am I. So is Oprah Winfrey and Stephen Spielberg and Conan O’ Brien and whoever wins the next “American Idol.”
          And Bugs Bunny, too. Remember his buck-toothed mockery of the Japanese in World War II?
          There is not a human being alive who does not at least privately make generalizations based on race and ethnicity (and gender.) Here’s one: drivers from Asian countries stink (and how!) This is a form of racism. Comedians---notably minority comedians---get away with racial generalizations and satire all the time. Usually stupid, crass generalizations.
          But this is a comparatively benign racism, if there can be such a thing, and it is about as avoidable as cell phones. The problem with calling Sotomayor a racist, as many have in recent weeks, is that the word is largely connotative, charged with images of lynch-mobs, black/white drinking fountains, civil rights marches, genocidal slaughters. She hardly comes from such poison.
           The pertinent question concerning President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee is whether racial attitudes shape her notions of justice. One may argue this is unavoidable, that it is also true of any judge in any courtroom of any racial background. Attitudes are shaped by experience, and experience varies based on many factors, one of which is race. How could Sotomayor's Puerto Rican ancestry not have some bearing on her attitude, philosophy? And why shouldn’t it? 
          What, then, is so objectionable about Sotomayor’s ruling in the New Haven firefighters’ discrimination case, in which white firefighters who passed a promotion exam sued when rules were bent on behalf of minority firefighters who failed the same exam, and her now infamous statement:
          "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion (as a judge) than a white male who hasn't lived that life."
           Just this: she had no compunction about making such a pejorative racial generalization openly. She did not understand that it is morally objectionable, let alone  ethically questionable, for a judge to do so. She did not understand that her statement is undeniably one of bigotry based on race. It recognizes and endorses a competitive, if not antagonistic, relationship between “white males” and “Latina women.” It pits one against the other. Leave it to affluent, guilt-ridden, white liberal apologists to defend her remark with strained interpretations saying it is merely about cultural orientation.
          As is the case with a great many exponents of liberal, politically correct thinking, Sotomayor has perverted the combating of discrimination against minorities to the point of openly discriminating, at least in attitude, against those perceived to be in the majority: so-called “reverse discrimination.” Or, more colloquially, “payback.” This is the underlying mentality at work, and it is one that is epidemic among minorities conditioned by media, popular culture, and universities to regard the United States as a festering Petri dish of racial persecution.
          That’s correct. To grow up in this country in the last 40 years is to be told by rappers, reporters, directors, and ethnic/gender studies professors that the United States is racist and sexist to its black discriminatory heart. While the discrimatory evils of the USA are duly infamous---and reexamined ad nauseum by media and academia---perspective in this sorry matter has been abandoned. Not only does this country have no special claim on racism and sexism, historically, but---unlike most societies in human history--- its theoretical precepts are, and always have been, egalitarian. It is nothing if not the world’s greatest ongoing deliberate multi-cultural experiment, and no nation has done more---through legislation and attitude---to redress race/gender inequities than has the USA in the last 60 years. That fact alone should be an enormous source of pride to every citizen.
          Yet Sotomayor openly deals in the language of separatism, of us vs. them. As with ethnic/gender studies departments, pop star icons, and every minority leader who comes immediately to mind, all have forgotten that “e pluribus unum” means “out of many, one.” Quite to the contrary, a viable slogan for Sotomayor and the minorities in this country today would be, “out of one, many.” Rodney King’s limp, tragic “can we all get along?” statement---at best a lawyer-coached press conference pose---is the lone pitch for togetherness by a public figure that I can name since the touching words of the late Robert F. Kennedy in the late ‘60’s. Separatism (read: “ethnic pride”) in the name of equality has ruled, ever since.
          It’s reprehensible---and crazy---enough, I believe, to harbor such an attitude. But it is nothing less than frightening that a woman of Sotomayor’s achievement and education would brazenly, without embarrassment or shame, publicly aver that a “wise Latina woman” judge would usually make a better decision than a “white male” lacking the Latina life experience. (Aside: exactly how can a white male have a “wise Latina” life experience?) Worse than merely racist and sexist, this thinking is shallow, crabbed, unsophisticated. It also hardly implies “inclusion,” to use a politically correct buzz-word regularly thrown about by outraged minorities. Outrage being the prevailing starting point in minority attitudes in the last 30 or 40 years.
          Let’s restate her iconographic comment in plain terms: All white males make for less capable judges because they lack the experience of “wise Latinas.” Wow. Putting aside the fact that this slights “unwise Latinas,” whoever they might be (and is implicitly boastful), the statement reveals that Sotomayor believes there is a constant commonality to the “white male” experience, attitude, and sensibility. She does not explain what this might be, but the listener gets the clear implication: all white males grow up in comparative wealth and privilege, and are therefore less able to empathize with those who do not.
          I wonder: is there a single reader out there who believes this? Empathy is not born merely of experience, if at all. It is something that might be instilled by parental guidance, schools, religious institutions, and life experience. It might take root in a white male who grows up as privileged as Louis XIV, and not take root in a white male who grows up with a dirt floor in the Appalachians. Yes, there are white males who grow up in comfort, and who lack empathy for minorities---and there are minorities who grow up in comfort who lack empathy for minorities (or non-minorities.) Suffice to say that empathy most certainly does not extend from dull-witted statements pitting Latinas against white males, made by a leading exponent of the American justice system.
          The proof of Sotomayor’s prejudice---or at minimum, the stupidity and inappropriateness of her remark---is simple, irrefutable, and it has been put forward by a great many conservative monsters, from Ann Coulter to Rush Limbaugh: reverse the circumstance. Had a “white male” judge made a statement that persons of his ethnicity and gender would make better decisions than a “wise Latina,” he would be out of a job by now---and probably for life. Why has it become acceptable for a minority to make ridiculous, degrading racial/gender generalizations, and almost literally criminal for a member of the so-called majority to do the same?
          It is a painful day when I have something in common with the likes of sociopaths such as Limbaugh and Coulter, both of whom, I believe, craft their public personas on the basis of garnering ratings, money, and vainglory. But this what I am driven to, in the face of (anti-white male) racism long widely and tacitly endorsed and accepted by popular culture, liberals, and mainstream media---and, not incidentally, flagrantly institutionalized in the workplace. Having been several times denied jobs on the basis of my gender and ethnicity---jobs that went to embarrassingly less qualified minority persons---I know of what I speak. And I am far, far from alone in such discriminatory experiences. “Payback?” For what? I’ve never engaged in racial discrimination in my life.
          Yet Sotomayor has, and does. Although academically well qualified for her Ivy League education, at which she excelled, she has long made campaigning for Latinas (and, one presumes, Latinos) a cause. Talking to an arrogant (white) law firm recruiter who suggested she was simply a beneficiary of Affirmative Action, she became a college cause celebre by promptly taking legal action against the firm. She actively recruited for more Latino admissions to Yale, and is a longtime member of the ethnic separatist group, La Raza. To say she lacks an agenda is to say that Jesse Jackson's "Hymietown" quip had nothing to do with Jews.
          So to return to the central question: do Sotomayor’s racial attitudes affect her legal judgement? Yes, and here is some hard evidence. In upholding the (absurd) decision against the white male New Haven firefighters, she imperiously offered zero explanation of her decision. Where a legal interpretation was warranted, proper protocol (as every legal expert quizzed on the matter has said), she simply rubber-stamped the existing decision, obviously because she was a minority and sympathized with the minorities involved. Justice was irrelevant, kneejerk response reigned. There is no other plausible explanation.
          While this has all been argued as part of benign, even admirable, crusading for minorities, it nonetheless signals a racially discriminatory attitude. One that has been openly, blithely, unapologetically confirmed by her very own public statement about “white males.”
          Confirm Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court, and the country confirms a racist. And not a very wise Latina one, at that.

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