LatinaLista — It was to be expected that the senators grilling Judge Sonia Sotomayor during her Supreme Court confirmation hearings would bring up her “wise Latina” statement.
Judge Sonia Sotomayor during her confirmation hearings.
And it’s not surprising that she would pull a “my bad” form of apology in explaining it away.
Yet, a couple of senators were intent on shaming Sotomayor in ever making the statement.
As Arizona’s Sen. Kyle scolded:
…So here you’re reaching a judgment that not only will it make a difference but that it should make a difference. You acknowledge that they made a big difference in discrimination cases but it took a long time to understand — it takes time and effort. “In short, I accept the proposition that difference will be made by the presence of women and people of color on bench and my experiences will affect the facts that I choose to see. I don’t know exactly what the difference will be in my judging but I accept that there will be some based gender and my Latina heritage.”
You said that you weren’t encouraging that. And you talked about how we need to set that aside, but you didn’t in your speech say that this is not good. We need to set this aside. Instead you seem to be celebrating it. The clear inference is it’s a good thing that this is happening.
So that’s why some of us are concerned, first with the [?] [?] in his speech and then this article. It would lead someone to the conclusion that (a) you understand it will make a difference; and (b) not only are you not saying anything negative about that, but you seem to embrace that difference, in concluding that you’ll make better decisions. That’s the basis of concern that a lot of people have.
Judge Sotomayor needs to be given kudos for even following that rant.
Then it was South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham’s turn which proved difficult to watch not because he also made it a point to scold Sotomayor for her choice of words in the “wise Latina” statement, but repeatedly stooped to condescendingly shaming her on her statement in an unacceptable and repulsive manner.
The problem is that while hard questions were expected, the line of questioning forcing her to practically denounce the statement isn’t seen as having anything to do with her qualifications as a Supreme Court justice. Rather, it hearkens back to a time in history, dare I say, when submission was beaten into a person of color.
That Judge Sotomayor has to sit there with a smile on her face and take the condescending insults is not just disrespectful to Latinos but women and people of color who have been historically subjected to this kind of authoritarian treatment.
There was no clearer sign that Sen. Graham relished his role as whipmaster over Sotomayor than in these statements:
You’ve got a judge who has been on a circuit court for a dozen years. Some of the things trouble me, generally speaking left of center, but within the mainstream, and you have these speeches that just blow me away. Don’t become a speechwriter, if this law thing doesn’t work out, because these speeches really throw a wrinkle into everything.
The ten-minute rule applies to everybody and that obviously you’ve accomplished a lot in your life, but maybe these hearings are time for self-reflection.
And the one thing that I’ve tried to impress upon you through jokes and being serious, is the consequences of these words in the world in which we live in. You know, we’re talking about putting you on the Supreme Court and judging your fellow citizens.
And one of the things that I need to be assured of is that you understand the world as it pretty much really is. And we’ve got a long way to go in this country, and I can’t find the quote, but I’ll find it here in a moment — the wise Latino quote.
“I would hope that a wise Latino (sic) woman, with the richness of her experience, would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male.” And the only reason I keep talking about this is that I’m in politics. And you’ve got to watch what you say, because, one, you don’t want to offend people you’re trying to represent.
But do you understand, ma’am, that if I had said anything like that, and my reasoning was that I’m trying to inspire somebody, they would have had my head? Do you understand that?
SOTOMAYOR: I do understand how those words could be taken that way, particularly if read in isolation.
GRAHAM: Well, I don’t know how else you could take that. If Lindsey Graham said that I will make a better senator than X, because of my experience as a Caucasian male makes me better able to represent the people of South Carolina, and my opponent was a minority, it would make national news, and it should.
Having said that, I am not going to judge you by that one statement. I just hope you’ll appreciate the world in which we live in, that you can say those things, meaning to inspire somebody, and still have a chance to get on the Supreme Court.
Others could not remotely come close to that statement and survive. Whether that’s right or wrong, I think that’s a fact.
GRAHAM: Does that make sense to you?
You know what? If that comes of this hearing, the hearing has been worth it all, that some people deserve a second chance when they misspeak and you would look at the entire life story to determine whether this is an aberration or just a reflection of your real soul. If that comes from this hearing, then we’ve probably done the country some good.
The thing is, Sen. Graham obviously doesn’t appreciate that Sotomayor has already done this country good with her service thus far on the bench. She, nor any other Supreme Court nominee needs the forgiveness of any U.S. Senator to achieve a seat on the court.
What every nominee needs is to be asked questions without being ridiculed or spoken to in a condescending manner. While the tone of the hearings has been civil, the statements from those Republican senators who are choosing to be “tough” have been far less.
But a civil tone can mask even the greatest of insulting behavior.
While the nation is witnessing a historic moment for the Latino community, it’s also witnessing a display that borders on racism and is masked by congressional approval.