Sotomayors' Critics Could Use A Little Self-analysis Too

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THE PLANK MAY 29, 2009

Sotomayors' Critics Could Use A Little Self-analysis Too

Reading David Brooks' "case for an emotional justice" (sure to draw sneers from "purer" conservatives), it occurred me: What's troubling me about the Sotomayor critics rambling on with such arch intellectual piety about how a jurists' emotions and experiences shouldn't inform her interpretations of the law isn't that I suspect these grumblers are racist or sexist or hard-hearted; it's that they really seem to believe that certain people (themselves included, of course) operate largely free from such messy, imprecise, irrational influences.

Not to state the obvious, but an upper-middle class white guy reared in the suburbs is shaped by his experiences, carries certain assumptions, and views the world through a particular prism as much as a working-glass Puerto Rican gal from the Bronx, or, for that matter, the half-black son of a single mom raised in Hawaii. The person belonging to the cultural/ethnic/religious/gender/racial demographic that has traditionally dominated a field (and thus whose perspective has long been the default) may not have given as much thought to his prism as a member of a non-dominant group. But that does not make his prism a neutral one. It aimply allows him to more freely indulge his delusions of pure rationality and objectivity.

In his column, Brooks wonders if Sotomayor "is aware of the murky, flawed, and semiprimitive nature of her own decision-making, and has she accounted for her own uncertainty. It's a sensible question--and one that many high-minded legal experts, politicians, and other members of the chattering class clearly could stand to ask themselves.

--Michelle Cottle

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