Chicago Sun-Times
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Sotomayor defends "wise Latina" remark; says phrase misunderstood

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Updated with fuller quotes

WASHINGTON--On the second day of her Supreme Court nomination hearing, Sonia Sotomayor was just asked by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to explain her use of the phrase ''wise Latina woman." And for the first time, Sotomayor defended herself.


Leahy said, "So tell us, you've heard all of these charges and countercharges
-- the wise Latina and on and on. Here's your chance. You tell us. You tell us what's going on here, Judge. "

Replied Sotomayor, "thank you for giving me an opportunity to explain my remarks. No words I have ever spoken or written have received so much attention.

"I gave a variant of my speech to a variety of different groups -- most often, to groups of women lawyers, or to groups most particularly of young Latino lawyers and students. As my speech made clear in one of the quotes that you referenced, I was trying to inspire them to believe that their life experiences would enrich the legal system, because different life experiences and backgrounds always do. I don't think that there is a quarrel with that in our society.

"I was also trying to inspire them to believe that they could become anything they wanted to become, just as I had. The context of the words that I spoke have created a misunderstanding and I want - a misunderstanding -- and to give everyone assurances, I want to state up front, unequivocally and without doubt, I do not believe that any ethnic, racial or gender group has an advantage in sound judging. I do believe that every person has an equal opportunity to be a good and wise judge, regardless of their background or life experiences.

1 Comment

It is clear why there is a concern regarding Judge Sotomayor's comments. However, it is also clear that every person brings who he or she is to all situations. This is inescapable. Even the most objective person in society cannot escape himself or herself. People who try to do so are not people that we admire or respect and are always identified as not being worthy of our trust or respect. To indicate that escaping one's self is possible is a complete denial of our experience in humanity. It is more important to recognize, acknowledge and embrace who we are. It is then that we are in a position to go beyond our own biases to think, deliberate, act and judge objectively.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on July 14, 2009 8:53 AM.

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