Except for that question about racism.
Sotomayor finds herself under intensifying scrutiny for saying in 2001 that a female Hispanic judge would often reach a better decision than a white male judge. This statement came out in a speech at Berkeley (aka, "Moscow-by-the-sea") in 2001. Certainly, on the face of it, such a statement at the very least borders on racism. Is there a contextual component to what she said? Of course, but I'm not sure it makes a big difference.
To quote her more fully:
"Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences ... our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging ... I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage."
I can't really disagree with that--we are human, and we all have different life experiences, which affect how we view the world around us. They can be useful to us, and they can also be a terrible hindrance to us.
She goes on to wonder
" . . . whether by ignoring our differences as women or men of color we do a disservice both to the law and society."
She then concludes with the controversial statement itself: "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."
That different people perceive these comments differently is perhaps evidence of Sotomayor's point. But it is one thing to make commonsensical observations about the difficulty of overcoming our personal prejudices; as a judge, however, I expect someone--man, woman, Latina, Asian--to not celebrate these differences, but to strive mightily to transcend them.
What exactly does "a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences" mean? Do all Latina women (isn't that a little redundant? are there any Latino women out there?) have the same rich experiences? Isn't this at the very least prejudicial?
As far as her "compelling" story goes, one commenter notes
The woman grew up in the capital of the world, went to two Ivy League schools, and was blessed by Providence with the precisely correct right race-gender two-fer for the moment. This is a story of privilege, dammit, not adversity. Show me a Montana girl of un-useful ethnicity who put herself through law school waiting tables, after being left with two young children when her Army husband was killed overseas, and I'll start oohing and aahing over her compelling story.
And it's not just angry white guys who have taken notice. Even Obama is concerned about Sotomayor's choice of words, stating to NBC news, "I'm sure she would have restated it."
Senator John Cornyn, who has criticized Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich for their recent comments on the controversy, had this to say:
“The American ideal is that justice should be colorblind. As we see people like Barack Obama achieve the highest office in the land and Judge Sotomayor’s own nomination to the highest court, I think it is harder and harder to see the justifications for race-conscious decisions across the board.”
Sounds pretty reasonable to me. And he didn't even have to think about his choice of words.