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Thursday, September 28, 2023


Sotomayor’s wisdom raises questions

Sonia Sotomayor, Latina, Princeton and Yale-educated wunderkind from the Bronx, will be the U.S. Supreme Court’s 111th Justice. With Democrats holding a 12-7 lead in the judiciary committee and a probable 60-40 lead on the Senate floor, her appointment is all but a foregone conclusion.

The debate taking place now revolves primarily around the nature of justice and precisely how it should be considered and administered by a judge of the highest court in the land.

Sotomayor will be the third woman appointed to the Supreme Court and the first Hispanic, although she joins five other justices who share her Catholic faith. This country has come a long way from John Kennedy and his opponents’ accusations regarding his supposed plot to build an underground tunnel to the Vatican. America has moved beyond prejudice toward Catholics, but it is certainly caught up on the race issue, in part due to Sotomayor’s own verbal blunder.

During the hearings, Sotomayor has come off as one of the least articulate appointees in recent memory, and one statement in a speech made at University of California, Berkeley, and now discussed ad nauseam on every major English-speaking news network, referenced her belief 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.’

She has since claimed that, in that statement, she misspoke and was not clear enough in communicating her intentions and beliefs.

The statement has been picked apart countless times, in and out of context. The statement is a warning sign that points not only toward a startling inability to speak clearly and thoughtfully, but also toward an idea of racial prejudice that favors the richness of experience, which comes with not being white.

The fear of those on the judiciary committee is being voiced politely if slightly curtly, by Republicans who are attempting to not appear racist or sexist while questioning the Hispanic woman in front of them.

There is resistance, certainly, which is to be expected. Sotomayor may have the easiest road to appointment in recent memory, because of the halo surrounding President Obama and the Pax Americana that Democrats are enjoying post-Bush.
She is certainly qualified academically. Sotomayor graduated at the top of her class at both Princeton and Yale before former President George H. W. Bush awarded federal judgeship to her.

The question revolves around whether her racial background will work to inform her perspective and attitudes toward the law, or to hijack them. Will this turn her into a race-activist judge with no regard for constitutional theory or practice?

The truth is probably somewhere in between. As Sotomayor is inevitably confirmed, America would do well to remember these talking points and apply them toward the future: Does the country need a ‘wise Latina woman’ or a constitutional scholar for whom race is simply an intellectual issue?

Kevin Cook is an English junior and may be reached at [email protected]

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