Nobody as far as I can tell has criticized Sotomayor for expressing pride in her roots and her community. ~Jim Antle

No, Limbaugh and Gingrich have just called her a racist and declared her unfit to be a judge because she has done so, because these people have mistakenly read her statements to say something that they do not say. (I will not dwell on the more direct whining about the pronunciation of her name or her culinary preferences.) No criticism of her pride to be seen here–move along! Contra Antle, I am not “trying to shoehorn” Sotomayor’s remarks “into a context of particularism and a paleoconservative understanding of diversity.” I wouldn’t dispute that she was speaking in a context of “multiculturalism, critical legal theory, and more mainstream forms of judicial liberalism.” Clearly, she was. As Jim keeps reminding us, she was speaking at Berkeley’s law school, and she is indeed a judicial liberal, albeit evidently not the fire-breathing radical sort that some of her early critics imagined. However, I would reject entirely the idea that she is espousing racism in the process, and I would insist that conservatives who have sympathies for particularism and decentralism ought to criticize Sotomayor for just about anything else besides her statements about her identity, which Jim has halfway admitted she is “entitled to celebrate.” Her critics keep talking about what would have happened to a white man had he said something comparable. Well, consider what is going to happen in the future to anyone on the right who expresses even a smidgen of pride in his culture or heritage after the blatantly unfair interpretations her words have received.

As bad as the double standard is today, it can always get worse. Indeed, if the critics believe in the reality of said double standard, they must know that flinging these epithets will simply increase the disparity of standards. They may think they are redressing the imbalance by applying an absurd standard to all, but this is like trying to use the Ring to defeat Sauron: you will be consumed, and Sauron will remain. It is rather like using the language of rights and autonomy to oppose abortion. At first, it seems like the smart move, because it speaks to people in a language they will readily understand, but by buying into the assumptions of one’s opponents the debate’s outcome is fixed before it even starts.

The greatest flaw with multiculturalism is that it is vapid, superficial and in large part negative, but as Jim mentions Sotomayor’s statement is noticeably different from that:

Sotomayor’s remarks are preferable to other multiculturalist pronouncements in that she expresses pride in an actually existing culture rather than a generic celebration of non-whiteness.

Jim then resorts to a standard complaint against multiculturalism:

But at its root is a point of view where some cultures and heritages can be celebrated while others cannot (some are in fact denigrated).

There is truth to this when speaking about multiculturalism in general, as I have known first-hand in many school settings (memorably, I was informed by a classmate that, as a white person, I had no culture to celebrate), but what Sotomayor’s critics never seem to do is to get to a point where they can show that she has applied this lamentable double standard. If she does hold such a view, we cannot determine this from what she said eight years ago, and even if she believed this it would still make no sense for conservatives to turn around and deplore her celebration of her culture and heritage by pretending that an unobjectionable statement is actually an expression of pernicious racism. By the rules her critics are setting up, woe betide the particularist or decentralist who wants to stress the importance of place and rootedness. The localist who bemoans deracination will be even more of a target than he is today. No one who wants to promote this agenda could possibly want that. After all, someone will be at the ready to declare that all of this is code for racism and other ills, and Sotomayor’s critics will have provided a very public, memorable precedent for misinterpreting statements in just this way.

P.S. On the Ricci case, I have to keep driving home the point that one can believe that the panel’s ruling was entirely consistent with current law and that Ricci and his co-workers were shafted, as Jim puts it. As Noah said earlier in this debate, the latter problem is a matter of policy, and conservatives might profitably focus their energies on changing that policy and invoke Ricci’s case to make that change. Here is Noah:

Weighing conflicting claims to justice and coming up with workable rules for adjudicating them that can be the basis of social consensus is what the political process is supposed to do.

Now it seems likely that the Court is going to reverse the appeals court in the matter of Ricci, but what conservatives should be spending their time on is working to change the law so that such a case becomes far less likely. The idea that no one is questioning whether the New Haven firefighters in the case have been badly mistreated is odd. For the last week and a half, it seems as if quite a lot of people have been openly and actively questioning this very thing.

Jim writes elsewhere:

In the real world where this ideology has been in vogue, expressions like Sotomayor’s routinely coexist with accusations of racism against conservatives. I’d like to hear of an example where it has ever been the other way around.

I’m sorry, but if we are talking about the real world, could we remember back to the days of 2008 when Obama was routinely accused of racism or at least of sympathy with racists, and we were treated to more than a few celebrations of “Real America”? Jim might object and say that Obama did not suffer the same fate that would have befallen a white conservative Republican, which is true, but that didn’t make the obsession with Obama’s pastors and the deployment of guilt by association attacks any more sensible. Then as now, all of the haranguing of Obama about alleged racism simply reinforced the very double standard that bothers conservatives so much.


Unlike some others, I have not actually called Sotomayor a racist…

No, not in so many words. What Jim said was this:

Moreover, the demographics of this country have reached the point where racialist and separatist statements [bold mine-DL] by nonwhites who aspire to high office have to be held to the same standard as those of whites.

So Jim thinks her statement was racialist, and not racist? Is that it? I can grant that there is a distinction between the two, but either way the misinterpretation is still pretty remarkable.

P.P.S. Jim concludes:

The only way I see any “boomerang” effect for conservatives is if they actually say or do something racist.

This is the whole point. What constitutes “something racist” is being watered down so much that far more conservatives will be deemed to have said or done “something racist” for the most simple expressions of pride in their own ancestry and culture. Had Sotomayor actually said that her “race physiologically qualifies” her to be a judge, that would be one thing, but yet again what she did say is being turned into something very different.

Update: Jim responds at some length. I will be writing my final post on the subject in reply, but there was one point I wanted to make now. Jim says that “the bulk of criticism of her Latina lecture that I have seen — and certainly the entirety of my criticism — has not been her discussion of her background. It has concerned her arguments with Miriam Cedarbaum and Sandra Day O’Connor about impartiality and race neutrality.” As for what he has seen, I will take Jim’s word for it, so I assume he would find Jeffrey Lord’s article on this subject, which dwells on the former with the zeal of an anti-racist inquisitor and barely touches on the latter, to be quite unsatisfactory. Likewise, I trust he would find Thomas Sowell’s weak analysis lacking as well.