Friday, May 29, 2009

Larison on Sotomayor

As usual, Daniel Larison looks at the "wise Latina" remarks from a conservative position, not a talking-points position ... and wonders what's "conservative" about Sotomayor's critics:
Horror of horrors, she was expressing pride in her particular identity, much as many conservatives claim they wish they could do more freely with respect to theirs without being called racist or racialist or some other derisive label. What is their solution? To call Sotomayor by a name that they usually regard as a bludgeon unfairly used against them all the time. Not only will this gambit fail in the immediate confirmation battle, but it will ensure that the limits of expression become even more constricting and stifling. This is what I don’t understand: why would conservatives want to make it easier to categorize innocuous statements as racist and/or racialist? There is virtually no social policy debate in which matters of race are not involved to some degree, and many, if not most, conservative social policy views already have to meet a rather exacting standard to avoid such charges. Why make that standard even more demanding and impossible to meet? Why water down the definition of racialist such that it seems to include any and all acknowledgment of the significance of these differences?
Then in the next post, the coup de grace:
If being a part of a certain white ethnic group is something that one is “entitled to celebrate” in a similar way, would we consider it racist for an Armenian or a Russian or German-American to express a similar pride in his heritage and express the hope that it would inform his judgments in such a way that he would be a better judge than someone not from that background? Perhaps the son or grandson of Russian emigres has a more keen appreciation for the rule of law because his family escaped from the grip of a totalitarian state; he does not take for granted what most of us and our ancestors have always known. Perhaps the grandson or great-grandson of German immigrants would be more attentive to the predicament of ethnic communities that are tied in the public’s mind with a foreign enemy in wartime. For that matter, perhaps the descendant of old-line English settlers deeply values the American constitutional heritage because he sees it as being inextricably interwoven with the heritage of his own ancestors, and so his support for the fundamental law has added significance for him. One could come up with other examples, but I think these already make clear that the statement in question-–on which so much of the resistance to Sotomayor seems to be based at this point–-may be many things, but racist is not one of them.
No wonder the smarter conservatives are standing aside and murmuring that the GOP had best let this one go through, and keep its powder dry for another time.

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