Progressive Revival

I’m sick of the constant harping on Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s ‘Wise Latina’ comment.  Jeff Sessions, the Senator from the great state of Alabama (‘everybody knows about Alabama’ -Nina Simone) made reference to it again in his opening/opposing statement at Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings today. 

The sentence, for those of you who haven’t been following the obsession, goes like this: 
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.
Judge Sotomayer said these words to a conference called Raising the Bar: Latino and Latina Presence in the Judiciary and the Struggle for Representation.  The context makes a difference. The context was a symposium meant to give encouragement to other Latina and Latino lawyers – a minority group that has traditionally been under represented in the legal tradition, especially as judges.
For those who have always enjoyed the privilege of assuming they could be the best at something it seems odd to say that you might actually be better at it than another group – that fact is taken for granted.  For instance, nobody is questioning my ability as a man to be a good lawyer, a good judge, a good voter, a good landowner, a good bank account holder – because it was presumed by society that I would be good at those things by the very nature of my gender. 
Not so for a women.  
There was a time when for a women to make the case that she should be allowed to be a lawyer, judge, voter, landowner, bank account holder (let alone claim she might be a good one) was extraordinary, as all of these things were forbidden to women.  So at a conference encouraging women it would not surprise one to hear a woman say that she might even be better at these things than a man because she is forced to compensate for an entire society that has legally and normatively insisted that she is not only not equal – she is inferior.   
So maybe in the context of the symposium supporting the idea that Latina women and Latino men could be judges (shock!) Judge Sotomayor was compensating a little.  Maybe she also was right and that the particular rich experience that a wise Latina women would be bring would be a valuable addition to the court (for more on that question see my earlier post Racist or Representative).
I, for one, am not intimidated or threatened by her comments. I do not believe that 
Judge Sotomayor’s is a racist.  She is proud of the abilities and wisdom that she and other  Latina women are offering to the bench.  She is qualified and I welcome her confirmation.