Repubican Senator’s Obsession with Being a Wise Latina

Let it go already. It is striking to me that the Republican Senators
on the judiciary committee are still obsessing over the wise Latina sentence
uttered by Judge Sotomayor—rather than her vast record of legal opinion. What
is it about a strong, smart Latina woman who is grounded and unwavering in her
ethnic  identity that so deeply threatens
 the Republican Senators? Does being a
wise Latina mean that you are therefore unwise towards the needs of other Americans? During the Alito confirmation
, not one Republican—or Democratic—Senator expressed dismay at the
expression of Justice Alito’s ethnic-based knowledge. In fact, Justice’s Alito’s
expression of the distinct sensibilities engendered by his Italian ancestry was
construed at the time of his confirmation hearings to be a seamless part of his
American identity that ostensibly rendered him a uniquely empathetic, fair, and
even-handed jurist.


Here is what these Republican Senators  don’t get—there is a whole  generation of highly educated people of color
who honor their ancestry, families, and communities (i.e. not Clarence Thomas)
and do not play out identity politics as the spring board to their political
ascent (i.e. not Jesse Jackson). People of color can love themselves, love America, and love other citizens of this nation. It is a new America and a new
voting electorate—and if Republican Senators can’t discern this sea change,
they will lose more than elections.

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

For more information or to schedule an interview with contact

  • alison-cole

    Thank you for pointing out the incredible hypocrisy between the treatment of Alito’s heritage and Sotomayer’s. How can these people be so blind to this?

  • invalid-0

    Well said. I recall when Alito was confirmed folks were publicly delighted to see another Italian on the Supreme Court.
    Of course they have a problem with the fact that she’s female too and, even more so with the fact that she’s not a member of the Federalist Society.

  • crowepps

    People of color can love themselves, love America, and love other citizens of this nation.

    The xenophobic impulse behind those questions is the presumption that if the Senators themselves are ‘good Americans’ and ‘good people’ then their personal attributes are the correct measuring stick of whether other people are ‘good’.


    Obviously a penis is the first requirement, but beyond that the correct skin color, accent, education and political views all are part of the evaulation.  The more like the evaluator one is, the more pure ones goodness is presumed to be.


    In addition, there is the populist sentiment that finds being ‘smart’ or ‘wise’ or ‘educated’ suspicious, because in their minds it is inextricably yoked with believing one is ‘superior’ to others and of more value to society and deserving of special privileges.


    It doesn’t occur to the Senators that they don’t choose their own personal doctors, lawyers, accountants, auto mechanics or plumbers with a preference toward mediocrity because their personal experience as politicians is that being ‘a regular average person’ is the quality the voters find most important to electing a Senator.

  • invalid-0

    What did Alito say?

  • invalid-0

    Since no one answered I checked into it myself and I think this may be the quote in question:
    “When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background, religion or gender. And I do take that into account”
    Well, first I would say its good that he takes this into account. Hopefully, any judge would remember that when issues such as ethnicity, religion or age enter the equation anyone could find themselves discriminated against.
    If Sotomayar had said “As a Latina, I remember that members of my own family were or could have been discriminated against and I take that into account” there would be no outcry. It would be good for her to remember that just that its good for Alito to remember it. But, that’s not what she said. She said because she is Latina she is inately qualified to dispense justice. In other words she has learned absolutely nothing from what her ancestors may have suffered and has no problem using ethnicity and gender to qualify or disqualify a candidate.

  • invalid-0

    What a great post! I just wish the mainstream media would do a little research and find some of the back ground of these folks.

    Sessions has an incredible history of bigoted remarks, and I believe prosecuting civil rights folks in a court of law.

    Coburn has a past in which he complained to NBC about showing Steven Spielbergs’s movie, “Schindler’s List” (about the Holocaust) because of nudity and violence. It was 1997 and this senator did not know much about the holocaust.

    These are the elected Republican Senators chosen to serve on the Judiciary Committee??? Along with Graham, etc.!!!

    Someone wise once created a great bumper sticker: Friends don’t let friends vote republican!