The New Sotomayor: Wise But Not Better Than Anyone Else

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
July 14 2009 4:24 PM

The New Sotomayor: Wise But Not Better Than Anyone Else

I prefer Sotomayor’s effort to put her wise Latina point in context to the talking points the Obama administration previously came up with. To be sure, she's not clearing up the internal contradiction between the unobjectionable idea that "life experiences matter" and her hope that being a wise Latina would lead "more often than not" to "better conclusions." And in his exchange with Sotomayor this afternoon, Sen. Kyl gave her speech a fair and more complex reading than she’s allowing for. But Sotomayor did explain this morning that she gave that speech "most often to groups of women lawyers or most particularly young Latino lawyers and students. As my speech made clear ... I was trying to inspire them to believe that their life experiences would enrich the legal system." In response to Kyl, she added that she often told her listeners at the end of the speech, "I hope someday you’re sitting on the bench with me."

In an insightful piece for Slate , Monica Youn pointed out that black and Hispanic and Asian heavyweights often get tangled up in identity politics because as "minority role models," they "are regularly asked to put on the public record-at lunches, award ceremonies, community events-lengthy statements of their views on America's most explosive topic: race." White men aren’t asked to explain how being white and male affects them as judges or leaders, so there’s no rope to hang them with. What do you think: Is this take-two from Sotomayor convincing or no?

Emily Bazelon is a staff writer at the New York Times Magazine and the author of Sticks and Stones