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Rhymes with 'Spies Cantina'

Your Humble Blogger would just like to make it clear: I know nothing about constitutional law, or law of any kind, so there's that. But I do think that, in many cases, a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences will reach a better conclusion than a white male.

Can I break it down just a bit, for a rhetorical flourish?

  • I believe that there exist wise Latina women. I have met two or three that I can think of off the top of my head, which may not sound like a whole lot, but is probably right in line, percentage-wise, with other groupings of ethnicity and sex.
  • While I agree with Judge Sotomayor that there can never be a universal definition of wise (that line was actually a reference to Martha Minnow, is intended as a critique of the wise old men and wise old woman line, and is the sentence before the famous one in the speech), a decent working definition of wisdom would probably be “agreeing with YHB on the substance of issues”. Given the demographics, the polling data, and my own policy preferences, it seems likely that wisdom would be fairly common among Latinas.
  • It's not clear to me that, in the context of judicial whatnot, a better conclusion necessarily means the overturning or upholding of the lower court decision. It might well mean that the decisions a wise Latina puts her name to will be better written than those of the white men. The Latina judge will (very likely) have a wider range of experiences writing to a wider range of audiences, and will therefore be less likely to trap herself in legalese. No, not really. I'm just kidding on this one.
  • I believe that there exist white males. Further, I think that white males who grow up in this country largely share certain overlapping experiences of whiteness and maleness. Not all the aspects of those experiences will be the same. If there are, say, a thousand typical aspects of whiteness and maleness, very few white males will have experienced all thousand of them, but very few white males will have experienced fewer than, say, three hundred of them. As a result, any two given white males will likely have quite a few of those experiences in common, but it is possible that the two will not have any in common, while still having plenty of whiteness and maleness. Therefore, the category does make sense.
  • Many of the common experiences of whiteness and maleness of which I speak are negative ones, that is, the experience of not experiencing some aspect of nonwhiteness and nonmaleness. In my personal experience as a white male, there have been many of those. Also, my experience is that it is much easier to recognize those after they have happened than while they are happening, whilst the correlating positive cases of nonwhiteness and nonmaleness are easier to recognize while they are happening. And, in fact, it is fairly easy to ignore them altogether. Two people who have shared experiences that neither of them has ever thought about for a moment still share those experiences, however (this speaks further to the existence of the category).
  • Further on the existence of the category: If I (a white male) were presented with the hypothetical list of a thousand experiences of whiteness and maleness, I might very likely focus on the hundreds of those experiences I have not had. However, as I understand it, most people who do not belong in those categories are more liable to focus on those experiences on their own hypothetical lists that they have had. I have much the same instincts as a member of a religious minority. Thus, while whiteness and maleness are in some sense categories like nonwhiteness and nonmaleness, they are in another sense entirely different.
  • As those categories do exist, and, in fact, roughly correspond to actual things in an actual world with actual history, the sentence A wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences will reach a better conclusion than a white male is significantly different than the sentence A wise white male with the richness of his experiences will reach a better conclusion than a Latina woman. The logical correspondence between them does not make them similar in content. It is possible that either statement could be uttered by a racist, but the utterance would mean something very different in either case.
  • The categories exist, and there are people in them. The statement is comparing the categories, not the people. This is problematic. However, the problematic nature of such a comparison does not mean it can't have more of a positive nature than a negative one. So there.
  • Within the context she originally was discussing, and within its context, we need to look at the overlaps of groups and categories. The question of the day is not whether a wise Latina woman will come to better conclusions than a white man, but whether a group of nine Justices that includes a wise Latina woman will come to better conclusions than a group of nine white male Justices. This seems to be obviously true, even if we assume the wisdom of the white male Justices in question. While there are limits to the practical possibility of racial and gender representation in a small group, and there are limits to its value even to the extent that it is practicable, there is a value in a diversity of experiences.
  • The general truth or applicability of this version of the statement should not be held to automatically mean that any specific Latina would bring greater marginal value to the Supreme Court than another specific white man, or than a white woman, or a South-Asian man, or any other combination of race and gender. The specifics of the individual are very important. However, the specifics of the individual would need to be argued as specifics. This does not invalidate the general statement in any way.

One of the things that I have experienced that is (as I understand it) common amongst minorities is the pressure to speak as a representative of a group, in addition to as an individual. I grew up with that experience without really understanding it: as a Jew, when I did something, it reflected on Jews everywhere, bringing shame or pride, or providing explanation or bafflement. I thought of it as a Jewish thing, to the extent I thought about it at all. It wasn't until I was an adult of sorts, in college, that I experienced pressure to represent the group of males or white people or even white males. I was baffled and angry about it, when it happened. Surely it was not only unfair but utterly preposterous to be tasked with that stuff. And it is, of course, although the unfairness and preposterousness felt very different than the (logically similar) unfairness and preposterousness of the previous experience. A bunch of Senators and commentators seem to be feeling baffled and angry by Judge Sotomayor, and her very interesting speech. Which, by the way, I would like to quote from a bit more to bring this note to a better conclusion:

However, to understand takes time and effort, something that not all people are willing to give. For others, their experiences limit their ability to understand the experiences of others. Other simply do not care. Hence, one must accept the proposition that a difference there will be by the presence of women and people of color on the bench. Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see. My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which I am unfamiliar. 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 accept that, too, and I welcome it.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,
-Vardibidian.

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