Posted by: Perimeter Progressive | May 30, 2009

Who the Heck Cares About New Racism?

Ah, Newt Gingrich – you are the reason that I hate Twitter.

Gingrich joined conservatives Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh (two other people who make me want to poke my own eyeballs out) in calling Sotomayor a racist this week. The controversy stems from a comment Sotomayor made eight years ago during a lecture at the University of California-Berkley:

Referring to former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s saying that “a wise old man and a wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases,” Sotomayor said, “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.”

Gingrich’s Tweet: “Imagine a judicial nominee said ‘my experience as a white man makes me better than a Latina woman’ new racism is no better than old racism.”

As the Times’ Charles Blow pointed out in this article, this is the same Newt who once said that bilingual education was like teaching “the language of living in a ghetto”; the same Limbaugh who told a black caller to “take that bone out of your nose and call me back.”

 This is the same party that covertly slammed Obama throughout the 2008 election for being black. This is the same party that welcomed Strom Thurmond, who holds the record for the longest filibuster in history (24 hours) – a filibuster that was aimed against a 1957 civil rights bill. This is a party that welcomes racism – trust me, I hail from the South.

But now there’s NEW racism.

Let’s get real. In retrospect, Sotomayor probably should have been more careful about the way she phrased her comments. Saying that a Latina woman would somehow be inherently better at making court decisions than a white male isn’t very fair, and it’s not politically intelligent. But instead of nit-picking at the comment, perhaps we ought to be considering its context.

This was a comment made, not in any court decision, but during a college lecture. In addition, I think it unlikely that even the most hardened Republican really believes that Sotomayor meant her comment literally. What she meant was that diversity of experience leads to diversity in opinions, and that the challenges that she has faced will likely affect the outcome of her legal decisions.

Poor little white Republicans – first a black president, now a Latina judge.  It’s a new world order!

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