Shouldn’t Newt Gingrich have some proof before he calls Sonia Sotomayor a racist?

Newt Gingrich’s blog this week had a post that consisted of these five sentences:

Imagine a judicial nominee said “my experience as a white man makes me better than a latina woman” Wouldn’t they have to withdraw? New racism is no better than old racism.

A white man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw. Latina woman racist should also withdraw.

First of all, what horrible grammar — missing word, missing comma, missing period, missing capitalization. Newt can’t afford an editor? But that bad grammar calls into some ambiguity (perhaps intentionally) whether or not he’s really making the accusation I think he’s making. Is that last sentence supposed to be hypothetical, and better cast as, “A Latina woman racist should also be forced to withdraw”?

As is, that last sentence uses “woman” (singular) and is missing the indefinite article present in the fourth sentence, so in my view it’s clearly supposed to be concrete rather than hypothetical. Combined with the title of the blog post (“On Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor”) and it’s very clear what he’s saying. Newt believes Sonia is a racist.

Why does he believe so? A lot of publicity has been generated from this excerpt from a 2001 speech Sotomayor gave at Berkeley’s Boalt School published in La Raza Law Journal:

I would hope 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.

In opposition to the clumsy language employed by Mr. Gingrich, look at how carefully crafted Ms. Sotomayor’s statement is. I’ve diagrammed a sentence or three in my time, and it’s quite clear she’s NOT saying something nearly as bald as Newt’s construction. I interpret Sotomayor’s statement as: I hope that it is true that f you are wise, and if you have had the richness of your experiences, and if you are a Latina woman, you have a chance of making a better conclusion than a white male who is not wise and has not had rich experiences.

Put that way, who could object to that statement? And who could argue it’s racist?

It’s disappointing that today Obama chose not to defend Sotomayor’s speech as is, and instead suggested that, “I’m sure she would have restated it.”

I’m not sure. Why should she change a word other than to bow to political expedience? She’s simply not saying anything controversial. The only controversy comes from willful misinterpretation of her words.

Obama suggests, accurately, that the thrust of her speech is “simply saying that her life experiences will give her information about the struggles and hardships that people are going through — that will make her a good judge.”

Judge for yourself. You can read the entire speech over at the New York Times. (Go ahead, it’ll only take you a few minutes.)

She concludes with this:

I am reminded each day that I render decisions that affect people concretely and that I owe them constant and complete vigilance in checking my assumptions, presumptions and perspectives and ensuring that to the extent that my limited abilities and capabilities permit me, that I reevaluate them and change as circumstances and cases before me requires. I can and do aspire to be greater than the sum total of my experiences but I accept my limitations. I willingly accept that we who judge must not deny the differences resulting from experience and heritage but attempt, as the Supreme Court suggests, continuously to judge when those opinions, sympathies and prejudices are appropriate.

Well said! Be vigilant, re-evaluate, aspire to be more than your experiences. That’s exactly what I want to see in a Supreme Court Justice.

What stuns me at the conservative backlash against Sotomayor typified by Newt’s blog post is that ANY kind of pride in one’s heritage is now racism. If someone says, “I’m proud to be Jewish” or “I’m proud to be Native American” or “I’m proud to be a Latina,” is that now objectionable and racist?

If so, then do conservatives believe that publications such as La Raza shouldn’t exist? Should there be no more Columbus day parades or Chinese New Years or St. Patrick’s Days or Kwaanzas or anything else that celebrates racial backgrounds and origins? What a monotonous world that would be.

So, Newt, do you have more to base this accusation on then a few words from a speech that you took out of context? It doesn’t appear so. Nothing in Sotomayor’s work, actions or history supports any kind of view that she is a racist. What a despicable and reprehensible accusation to make without proof.

We can’t pretend that all races and all backgrounds and all sexes and orientations and religions and cultures are identical. The differences are valuable. We should all have equal rights and opportunities, because of and despite the fact that we are all individuals and we are not all the same. Diversity is protection from homogeneous, isolationist, sheltered thinking.

My prediction is that this will blow over and that Sotomayor will be confirmed. I’m not qualified to judge her fitness for the Supreme Court based on her voting record and the quality of her work as a judge. But my limited assessment, based on her words in this speech and a few others, is that she will be an excellent addition to the Court.

One Response to “Shouldn’t Newt Gingrich have some proof before he calls Sonia Sotomayor a racist?”

  1. DaveZatz Says:

    I’m proud to be a geek blogger! 😉

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