Sonia, Obama, Race, and the Left


Justice Sonia Sotomayor, 54, who, everyone knows, is a "wise Latina woman," a self described "Nuyorican," formally took her seat on the Supreme Court recently.  She had been confirmed and sworn in to the nation's highest court as an associate justice on August 8, 2009 by Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr., its first Hispanic Justice, and its third woman.  In the parlance of modern "diversity" discourse, these latter two items are of paramount importance.   She, by the way, had been a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit when President Obama nominated her in May 2009 to replace the retiring Justice David H. Souter.

Her parents are from Puerto Rico.  She grew up in the east Bronx.  Assuming proper political leanings, of course, this will resonate favorably with today's modern liberal, conferring upon her, as it does, the highly valued status of an "oppressed" minority.  Judging by many of Sotomayor's comments, she appears well schooled herself in the politics of "identity."

In the putative "post racial" candidacy of Barack Obama, the biracial man, we were assured that the sainted one would deliver us unto a decidedly post racial age: Obama, through his ascension, would symbolically bind up the racial wounds of our fallen nation.  But having arrived in this enlightened era, we come to find that if anything we are more "racial" than ever.  Normal political discourse and debate over significant policy agendas being thrust upon the country are, in the minds of many on the left, hopelessly tainted by "racial" inflections - based, solely, on the fact that they are opposed.  In other words, the normal debate and discussion that accompanies any major initiative in a democratic society are no longer acceptable; we are to remain obedient as sheep or else endure the smears of liberals; nevermind that the current administration seeks merely to upend one sixth of the economy as it overtakes the health care system (not forgetting "stimulus," "omnibus," "cap and trade," "apology diplomacy," and, coming soon, amnesty and "card check" unionization) - this despite the growing majorites of retrogrades and reprobates reluctant to cede such power to the government.

But in reviewing the Sotomayor record in her own words and thoughts, we find an individual well suited to add not subtract from the racial acrimony and division that exists today, and must imagine that the man who selected her and who himself spent his formative years associating with individuals of extreme disposition (and continues to do so, certainly in view of the various "czars" he has retained), must have done so to satisfy his own regnant racial inclinations.

Andrew McCarthy, writing for National Review, reminds us of that famous "wise Latina" speech Sotomayor gave, the keynote address at an academic symposium entitled "Raising the Bar: Latino and Latina Presence in the Judiciary and the Struggle for Representation" in 2001 in Berkley, California and then published in the Berkeley La Raza Law Journal (La Raza, by the way, means "The Race").  In that speech, she stated that "Personal experiences affect the facts that judges see."  This already should raise the hackles of anyone interested in impartial, unbiased "justice," but the showstopper, of course, was when she proclaimed 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." A white judge uttering such words, only reflecting on the superior qualities of "whiteness" instead, would have brought the curtain down on his career, but in the politically correct universe of the left, such overt racial commentary by members of favored minorities is, if anything, laudable. 

And, so, we see the racialism that influences Sotomayor's thinking, the tendency to look at life, politics, and the law through the prism of race, not the sort of predilection one would wants in a judge who is expected to maintain an objective and dispassionate posture in interpreting disputes or other legal matters without preconceptions or preferences favoring one group or another.  This, of course, is the world that our post-racial President was supposed to transcend, but in selecting such an individual, consumed as she seems to be with race, gender, and ethnicity, one sees that rather than transcending it, he in fact inhabits it, is a piece with it, not post-racial man at all, as it turns out.

And these are not orphaned statements, taken out of context.  Rather, they are the context and reflect her most deeply felt attitudes about life in America and her work as a judge.  Sotomayor has been involved with the Puerto Rican Bar Association, the Hispanic National Bar Association, the Association of Judges of Hispanic Heritage, and the National Council of La Raza.  She has stated that "women or men of color" have "basic differences in logic and reasoning."  There would then necessarily be a "difference in the process of judging" as more minorities assume positions as federal judges.  "What the difference will be in my judging," she could not say, but she claimed "there would be some, based on my gender and Latina heritage."  Wonderful.

Sotomayor's biases as a judge are painfully clear in the recent Ricci v. DeStefano case, in which the Supreme Court, on June 29, 2009, reversed the decision of the Second Circuit (and, therefore, Sotomayor who had weighed in on the case as part of a three judge panel) in favor of the white firefighters against the city of New Haven for rejecting the results of an examination in which the white firefighters performed disproportionally better than minority applicants. 

Twenty Connecticut firefighters (19 white, one Hispanic) were refused promotions despite superior performance on the examination because of inadequate representation of "minorities."  The firefighters sued, charging, quite properly, discrimination.  A federal district court ruled in favor of the city of New Haven, ignoring the firefighters' obvious equal-protection claims and despite the evidence that the only reason they were denied promotions was because of the color of their skin (white, in this case).  

Enter Sotomayor.  She and two other judges formed a panel and attempted to bury the case, despite the glaring Fourteenth Amendment infraction, through an unpublished order supporting the district court.  The questionable action, ignoring significant constitutional issues, raised suspicions that the three judges were attempting to "sweep the case under the rug," so to speak, and avoid both Supreme Court review and public scrutiny.  Perhaps, they were also ashamed of their deeds.  The circuit court, by a 7-6 split vote, affirmed the order not to review the case.  One of the judges, however, Jose Carbanes, an Hispanic and Clinton appointee, joined by five other judges, issued a caustic reproof, decrying the unfair treatment of the firefighters, despite their legitimate "constitutional and statutory claims."  Sotomayor's efforts to conceal a valid case to avoid Supreme Court review, however, ultimately backfired with the Supreme Court's recent reversal of the Second Circuit's ruling.

When President Obama introduced Sotomayor last May, he stated that "... It is experience that can give a person a common touch of compassion... of how ordinary people live... it is a necessary ingredient... on the Supreme Court..."  Earlier, he had stated that judging should influenced as much or more by "empathy" than by legal reasoning, of "... understanding and identifying with people's hopes and struggles." 

Sotomayor's "empathy" or "compassion" apparently did not extend to the white firefighters.

Jay Nordlinger points out that in Sotomayor's 2001 Berkeley speech, she refers repeatedly to her "Latina soul," her "Latina voice," and her "Latina identity."  She then comments that she will be a "Latina voice on the bench."  Which means what exactly?  That "Latinas" have some intrinsic, desirable quality that lends itself to effective jurisprudence?  Do such qualities extend to other ethnic groups?  Japanese? Swedish? Italian, say?  Or, more to the point, does it mean that she will favor "minorities" in her judicial decisions? 

She goes on to say that "... our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging."  Oh?  Will it also make one partial to one side or another based on the race, ethnicity, or gender of the involved individual(s)? 

And you thought justice was supposed to be blind? 

And then there is the word "minority," so commonly used by Sotomayor and the left?  Does it refer to Polish Americans, Jewish Americans, or, say, Chinese Americans?  No, in the accepted idiom, it refers to blacks and Hispanics. 

"Women," as in "women and minorities," often get tossed in there, too, all three, in the Sotomayorian Universe, a part of the coalition of the "oppressed," eternal victims of racism and sexism in our fallen nation.  But only, by the way, if they happen to be liberal.  Ask Sarah Palin, Clarence Thomas, or Miguel Estrada (and many others).

The unfortunate Mr. Estrada (like Palin and Thomas) made the unpardonable mistake of being a member of an "oppressed" minority (Hispanic, in his case) and a conservative.  To paraphrase: wrath hath no fury like a liberal spurned.  And a conservative black or Hispanic will feel the winds of hell rushing in around him if he rises to any level of prominence. 

In the view of the left, a black or Hispanic, who happens to be conservative, is a traitor.  Period.  You are part of a group.  That group is supposed to be liberal.  Therefore, you, too, will be liberal.  And heaven help you if you are not.  You will be attacked and slandered and smeared.  You and, possibly, your family, will be dragged through the mud.  Because you have "betrayed" your race.  There, simply, is no room for black or Hispanic "individuals," in the left's vision, to think, act, or vote independently.  They are part of a "group" that is expected to be liberal, and that is that.  Gone, is the notion of individual rights, or autonomous and moral citizens making independent choices and decisions, of personal liberty, conscience, and freedom. (And we're supposed to be the facists?)  

And this, to the left, is progress - a whole new take on a "colorblind" society.  

It dovetails nicely with the notion of "categorical representation," which means that an individual is what his race, gender, or ethnic background is - and based, I suppose, on prevailing racial and gender stereotypes - must think and act accordingly.  Perhaps, even more nefariously, it also implies that only a member of that same group or category can represent, defend, or understand another of the same group. 

One if its most exteme and damaging manifestations is in the gerrymandering of legislative assemblies, from city councils to Congressional districts, by race, sanctioned by the Voting Rights Acts of 1965, and recently extended (quite foolishly) another 25 years by Congress.  This, by the way, is a redefining of the nation (a nation, historically, at least, of individual citizens) and what being an American means.  It is a rewriting of the Constitution.  It is the dis-uniting of the country, a kind of dismembering of society into groups based on race.  But, so what.  Welcome to identity politics.

Back to Mr. Estrada.  Miguel Estrada, an immigrant from Honduras, was nominated to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals in 2002 by President Bush.  New York Senator Chuck Schumer, who had said that Republicans oppose Sotomayor "at their peril," (referring to an Hispanic backlash, I suppose), described Mr. Estrada as a "...Stealth missile - with a nose cone - coming right out of the right wing's deepest silo..."  (But, it's only the right that is nasty and "mean-spirited.") 

Leaked memos from the Judiciary Committee, where Schumer sits, showed that Democrats worried that Estrada's position on the DC Circuit would be a platform for becoming the nation's first Hispanic Supreme Court justice.  Two years later, after seven filibusters against a confirmation vote and other smears by Democrats, Estrada withdrew.  Liberals apparently didn't worry then about trashing an Hispanic.  No problem.  He was a conservative. 

As I said, conservative Hispanics just will not do.  All the rules of political correctness, racial etiquette, and diversity politics fall away like so much dross when a member of a minority is not a liberal.

But with Obama's ascension, we were supposed to get away from all this.  As a biracial, post-racial candidate and now President, Obama had campaigned and would govern as a "uniter," lifting the nation beyond race, stereotypes, and labels.  But in selecting an individual so obviously steeped in the politics of identity and resentment, the rhetoric falls short of reality.  In this very telling and significant move, he has engaged in old fashioned, Chicago-style racial patronage - elevating an individual who, quite proudly and openly, expresses racial chauvanism, and, perhaps, judging by any number of her statements, may very well believe in Hispanic/racial supremacy.  Rather than delivering us from our racial past, Obama has driven us deeper into it.

For the left, and certainly Obama, who is nothing if not a product of the left, the nation has barely progressed, if at all, in the racial arena.  We remain mired in our segregationist past, perhaps with only a surface patina of evenhandedness and equality, under which lay the same primitive, smoldering hatreds and prejudices that have always characterized our broken, angry land.  It is a dark place, indeed, America, for the left, for many of them believe that the violent, racist tendencies are still there, lurking below the surface, ready to strike, ready to destroy, ready to return the nation to its "whites only" days again.  America as a Nazi regime; America circa 1950.  

For the left, it is as if America did not fight a civil war ending slavery, did not produce the Emancipation Proclamation, did not legislate civil rights or voting rights acts in the sixties, did not enact "Great Society" or the "War on Poverty," no anti-discrimination laws, no massive transfers of wealth, no affirmative action policies, no preferential treatment of minorities for college admissions, scholarships, government contracts, and employment (both government and corporate), no set asides, quotas, "diversity" training, no media/cultural/legal/and enforcement apparatus carefully searching and sifting for any hint of racism wherever it can find it, no periodic groveling and public symbolic disembowelment of individuals caught on the wrong side of political correctness, nothing. 

But in "racist" America, today, we have minority mayors, congressmen, senators, governors, and now a President.  We have minority billionaires and millionaires, minority doctors, dentists, lawyers, architects, journalists, authors, film directors, gays, lesbians, intellectuals, professors, TV personalities, activists, talk show hosts, businessmen, entertainers, film stars, and athletes.  Minorities are as fully integrated into mainstream American society as they can be based on their talent, hard work, and initiative - and a great deal of help from the American taxpayer and society at large.

Women, blacks, and Hispanics have attained to the highest rungs of power, wealth, and status, have occupied dominant roles in so many different endeavors and arenas (political, business, government, the military, sports, entertainment, education, etc.), where in a single election year (2008), the nation got to choose between having a black President (which we did), a female President, or a female Vice President.  Is it not time to put the "racism (sexism, xenophobism) in America" story to rest? 

Our current Secretary of State is a woman (Hillary Clinton), the previous one, a black female (Condoleeza Rice - a twofer, as they say, two oppressed groups in one), before her, a black man (Colin Powell), and before him, a female (Madelaine Albright).  Is it not fair to say that the so called "oppressed" minorities are well represented in the most exalted positions of influence and prestige. 

Not to those drenched in the politics of identity, race, victimhood, resentment, and envy.

Much of the endless wailing by so many on the left, minority or white, about racism in America, begins now to grow tiresome.  There is a guiding postulate at work in the "affirmative action," quota driven world view of the left that is at war with the fundamental principles of the country.  It is that individuals, because of their membership in certain "privileged" groups are entitled to preferential treatment by society even though they have not earned it.  It holds whites responsible for minoriy failure.  This, despite the fact that no white today ever owned a slave or that few, if any, have ever actually discriminated against "people of color."  Nor, has any member of a minority today ever been a slave nor likely to have been a victim of actual discrmination.  It imposes a burden on members of society who have committed no crime and provides benefits and compensation to others who have done nothing to merit it. 

The left, though, justifies this because it sees members of minorities as "victims" in an oppressive, racist society.  It cultivates attitudes of grievance and resentment within minorities, which we are to understand.  Society at large is guilty and is expected to be sympathetic; furthermore, it owes them. 

Many liberals are happy with this understanding and arrangement.  Perhaps, they feel guilty at their association with a nation stained with "racism" and from having prospered in it.  It may also be a small price to pay for not having to endure guilt over insufficient progress by minorities. 

Minorities, it is true, do not enjoy parity with whites (or Asians).  The lack of development is, of course (according to the left), society's fault.  The phenomenon of minority mediocrity based on society's sin of racism is mitigated through unearned compensation (wealth transfers).  Many members of minorities have been quite militant about this, have in fact launched successful careers peddling in racial grievance.  Their story is simple: they are victims of racism; the are second class citizens in a white dominated oppressive society; they are entitled to feelings and attitudes of resentment, anger, grievance, even rage; they and those they "represent" are also entitled to  compensation or preferential treatment. 

But, as Shelby Steele has alluded, this is a formula for corruption and division.  When individuals feel they have more to gain by being angry and resentful (and many have had fabulous and lucrative careers being so) based on membership in a particular group, rather than being productive, than the seeds of failure are in place - for the individual (other than those lucky enough to have made a career of it) and for society.  Any law or policy that holds that individuals of certain groups are entitled to special treatment by virtue of belonging to a certain group is an algorithm for division; for balkanizing the nation into warring tribes and factions.  It is in conflict with the belief in America as a nation of individuals, in meritocracy, in the free market, the Constitution, and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. 

It is high time for the nation to reject as both anachronistic and detrimental any and all race/ethnicity/gender based legislation and policy.  It is damaging for the nation but also for the particular group and for individuals who, instead of cultivating habits of industry and discipline, develops instead attitudes of anger and resentment that are unlikely to serve him well. 

We are a nation of citizens, all of us, whatever race, ethnic background, or gender: a nation, not of tribes or groups or genders, but of Americans.  Anything less than this will lead to greater division and rancor not less, and ultimately a balkanized, tribalized nation. 

It is also a formula for continued minority failure. 

By picking Sonia Sotomayor for Supreme Court Justice, someone who lives and breathes the politics of identity, of racial grievance and resentment, of entitlement and chauvanism, of racial, ethnic, and gender obsession, despite having prospered so well herself in "racist" America, Obama (who has prospered rather well, too) has shown us that he is not post racial at all: he is, rather, fully immersed in the politics of race and victimhood, in fact, a product of it - as anyone who spent twenty years in the pews of Reverend Jeremiah Wright's church would be. 

His post-racial rhetoric is an affectation, a fabrication, a chimera. 

It says one thing; his actions say quite another.

The redeemer who would, Lincoln-like, emancipate us from our tortured racial past will only make it worse.  Far from being a transformative figure, he is a pandering, hard left, political hack, skilled in the arts of racial patronage, obsessed with race and gender, who will only divide us further. 




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