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Sotomayor’s Critics

I find myself compelled to keep writing about this subject. The continuing objections to Sonia Sotomayor as a racist and practitioner of identity politics simply baffle me. Her record on discrimination cases alone seems to show that the latter charge is bogus, and the other charge is so absurd that I can’t believe it continues to circulate. As if to show just how absurd the charge of racism is in this case, Jeffrey Lord sums up his view with a statement that I think can only be called crazy:

Were this nomination a Hollywood script it would be pitched as Birth of a Nation meets the Weather Underground.

Conservatives write things like this, and then they wonder why minorities flee from them in droves. What inspires someone to liken the judicial nomination of a rather boring, conventional center-left Puerto Rican judge to a film that glorifies the KKK and a modern domestic terrorist organization? Given Lord’s past writings, obsessive anti-racism run amok seems to be the answer here, but while he may be one of the most vocal Lord is hardly alone. During this entire debate, we are hearing endlessly about the importance of merit and why merit must never be outweighed by identity considerations. All right. We are reminded again and again of the hope that everyone will be judged by character and not by race. That sounds reasonable. So why is it that Sotomayor’s critics seem to be going out of their way to ignore her merits and her achievements and have been fixating on questions of identity and identity politics to the exclusion of almost everything else? Perhaps deep within the cocoon, articles that earnestly claim that Limbaugh and Martin Luther King are fighting the same fight seem credible, but what everyone else sees is little more than a collective panic that an Hispanic has been appointed to the Supreme Court. Her critics have been railing against her allegedly faulty judgment, but they have managed to make their arguments so poorly that it is the soundness of their judgment that most people are bound to question.

No less remarkable are the descriptions her critics offer about her. According to Shelby Steele, who writes on almost nothing except for subjects related to race, she is “race-obsessed.” Andrew chimes in and refers, apparently without any irony, to the “constant, oppressive consciousness of her identity” and goes on to say that “the harping on it so aggressively so often does strike me as a classic mode of victimology deeply entrenched in her generation.” What evidence do we have that her consciousness of her identity is either constant or oppressive, or for that matter where is the evidence that she “harps on it” aggressively or otherwise? She talks about it, she refers to it, she takes pride in it, she thinks that it matters–this is not obsession or aggression.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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