I'm getting extremely annoyed watching the media repeatly quote the "wise Latina" line without putting it in context. I saw it in the Post this morning, and have since seen it on TV a couple of times -- with nary a word about context.
Basically, any reporter who quotes this line out of context is affirmatively misleading the public.
If you read the speech, you'll see that Sotomayor is in the middle of discussion of race and gender discrimination cases. She's saying that, in those type of cases, the experiences of minorities would hopefully lead them to reach better results as judges than all-white, all-male panels.
Now you may agree or disagree with that. But that's her argument. What she is emphatically NOT saying is that Latinas are better judges than white men. Yet, that's precisely the impression the media is giving -- and it's inaccurate. We should expect these types of lies from Newt Gingrich -- but the national media should be better. Indeed, the fact that Newt is making this very argument should tell the media everything they need to know about its credibility.
I'll say it again -- reporting this line without providing context is inaccurate and grossly misleading to the public.
Below the fold, I've posted the excerpt from the speech where the line appears. You'll notice that the paragraphs both immediately preceding and following this line are explicitly about discrimination cases.
In our private conversations, Judge Cedarbaum has pointed out to me that seminal decisions in race and sex discrimination cases have come from Supreme Courts composed exclusively of white males. I agree that this is significant but I also choose to emphasize that the people who argued those cases before the Supreme Court which changed the legal landscape ultimately were largely people of color and women. I recall that Justice Thurgood Marshall, Judge Connie Baker Motley, the first black woman appointed to the federal bench, and others of the NAACP argued Brown v. Board of Education. Similarly, Justice Ginsburg, with other women attorneys, was instrumental in advocating and convincing the Court that equality of work required equality in terms and conditions of employment.
Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, a possibility I abhor less or discount less than my colleague Judge Cedarbaum, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice O'Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O'Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, 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.