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June 02, 2009

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This text is complex enough that I'm not sure you are absolutely right that she's limiting her discussion to discrimination cases. I agree that, interpreted charitably, she's not claiming Latinas always make better judges than white guys. I think she's saying diversity leads to better decision making over all.

I think it's interesting that she is willing to consider the possibility that cultural and even physiological differences between men and women and even between ethnic groups affect how we think. And she said it in Berkeley.

The problem, though, is that the judiciary will never be as diverse as a democratically-elected legislature. So if diversity is good, judicial power is dangerous.

I agree with Pithlord. It's not clear that she's limiting her comments to discrimination cases, but that's a plausible -- and certainly the most defensible -- reading. As I've mentioned in prior comments, I don't think these comments are damning, but they are troubling. (FWIW, I wouldn't have nominated any judge with S.'s politics or philosophy, but, as they say, elections have consequences ....)

Pithlord, however, identifies a point that is not frequently mentioned. This line is truly radical, and not at all PC: "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." It's an interesting and somewhat awkward formulation. Still, among the things S. accepts as, well, acceptable, is "that inherent physiological ... differences [based on] our ... national origins may and will make a difference in our judging[.]"

Steve Sailor may not put it exactly that way in his writings. But Sotomayor's comments are certainly closer to Sailor's comments regarding the impact of racial differences on, e.g., intelligence and temperment, than many of Sotomayor's supporters might wish to accept. Certainly, they are closer to Sailor than I'd like to see in a judicial nominee.

(I again refer to Ta-Nehisi's comments on this subject as most reflective of my views.)

I actually think that a good way to think about this is to ask: over what range of possible worlds does her claim that "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" range?

Possibility 1: it ranges over all possible worlds, including those in which the US is a matriarchy dominated by Latinas. Even there, a wise Latina would do better. This would imho be offensive.

Possibility 2: it ranges over worlds that are more or like this one, specifically in that there has been oppression against both women and Latinos/Latinas, and both groups are seriously underrepresented in the judiciary. This would, imho, not be offensive. I think it's borderline banal to say that it's easier to appreciate what it's like to be either discriminated against or a member of an underrepresented minority if you have been one:

"The toad beneath the harrow knows
Exactly where each tooth-point goes."

Etc. The toad knows this from experience; non-toads require empathy, which might or might not be forthcoming, and is in any case apt to miss the odd detail. And if her claim ranges only over worlds in which Latinas are underrepresented and historically discriminated against, I think that's all she's saying.

I don't think it's completely clear which she's saying, but I think 2 is more plausible, given things like her references to "living that life", experience, etc. -- I mean, the advantage is supposed to come from the content of the wise Latina's experience, which would not be remotely the same in my imaginary Latina-dominated US.

In any case, I think that people who find this offensive are implicitly hearing 1, and people who don't are implicitly hearing 2.

"more or like" should be "more or less like".

I guess what confirms it for me that it's #2 is that it's such a ridiculous (and offensive) argument if that's really what she means.

To Pith's point - she might be making general points about the value of diversity. But I'm focusing specifically on this line -- the one where she says latinas make wiser decisions. considering the paragraphs surrounding it, i don't really even see it as plausible to read her as saying they just make better judges.

publius: #1 didn't so much as occur to me as a possibility until I really sat down and tried to figure out what all the fuss was about.

Von, the way I read it, the physiological differences went with "gender" and the cultural differences went with "national origin." So maybe Larry Summers could find some support, but Steve Sailer would not.

"Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences[...]"

"But Sotomayor's comments are certainly closer to Sailor's comments regarding the impact of racial differences on, e.g., intelligence and temperment [sic], than many of Sotomayor's supporters might wish to accept."

Cultural differences occur between judges from different cultural / ethnic backgrounds, which inform their experiences. And yes, there is an obvious physiological difference between certain judges. Brace yourselves: some have peepees and some don't. Shockingly, both of these differences might have a bearing on how those judges perceive discrimination, without their brains literally being constructed differently. I mean, there are pictures on the internet that cover the physiological stuff, guys.

y'know, I'm a little tired of hearing people - even in this case people who I'm inclined to credit as sincere - hearing that "physiology" and getting the shivers.

Do you really think that she was talking about racial superiority, or even different racial aptitudes for different situations, a la Steve Sailer? And do you think that anyone on the left agrees with such an interpretation and yet wouldn't be repulsed by the notion? Or do you think it might just be that she was considering how being a woman, or being a diabetic, might color a judge's comprehension of relevant issues as they come before the bench?

Well, I may be wrong about this, but I think that there is a physiological difference between men and women.
If I am right about this ( humor me here:-)) I imagine that women experience the world differently than men and this different experience just may color their thinking on their thinking and decision-making on such matters as say, pregnancy and rape. I think that this is most likely what Sotomayor was referring to, and not any racist theories of Latina superiority ( of which I don't think that there are any).

In any case, erecting a theory that Sotomayor is racist based on one line is a completely specious argument, and we should never lose sight of that.

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.

people, people, people. the bold parts of the sentence qualify the rest.

if A = B, then A + C > B - C

Let me know when Sotormayor starts a site equivalent to vdare.

What I find interesting is that a judge with a fairly conservative approach to the law is being ripped by conservatives and defended by liberals.

That is all one really needs to know about the society we are now in.

Cleek's right. It has annoyed me from the beginning of this particular little merde-storm that the likes of Pat Buchanan hear "wise Latina" as just plain "Latina". Had Sotomayor claimed that a "dumb Latina" would make better decisions than your typical white guy who thinks English muffins are ethnic food, then the Buchanans of the world might have a point.

The other thing that annoys me is the pathetic conflation of a group's "diversity" with an individual group member's ethnicity. A more-diverse Court is good. But you can't get there from here if you don't like nominees who are "ethnic".

--TP

"wise Latina" is clearly playing on the previous phrase; and the rest of the speech, which continues after what hilzoy has highlighted, indicates that white male judges *can* educate themselves as to the experience of minorities, but that it's a difficult and time-consuming task, so not many do, and that someone such as herself should take care to reflect upon her experiences intelligently. So her argument seems to reduce to "In cases concerning discrimination based on race and gender, some people who have been personally affected by such policies and who have taken the time to reflect wisely on those experiences with luck will come to better conclusions than those who have not had those experiences and who have not taken the time to educate themselves about the effect of the policies."

Would that all our "racists" were so thoughtful!

I submit this as a case of Conservative psychological projection -- the words "wise Latina" alone were taken to mean Sotomayor, "white male" means Conservative men, and thus the froth and hubbub about her bigotry and hatred.

Narcissicist provocateurs tend to assume others operate in the same manner.

Incidentally, this reminds me of a few experiences I've had with female friends and girlfriends. They often assume there is an indirect message behind a direct statement of mine; I have often assumed a seemingly direct question or statement to be intended indirectly. On occasion when I have realized this and commented that I mean exactly what I said with no hidden subtexts, THAT is assumed to have a hidden meaning as well. At which point I practically pray for a booming voice from above to announce, "IT IS TRUE, THIS MAN IS SPEAKING WITHOUT ANY OTHER INTENDED MESSAGES." Hasn't happened yet though. :)

Modification of above: I have often taken questions or statements at face value rather than ferreting out the subtle underlying meaning.

But you all knew what I meant.

publius: #1 didn't so much as occur to me as a possibility until I really sat down and tried to figure out what all the fuss was about.

me too -- i think i watched either the national news or the local news (i'm visiting family so the tv is on more), and the presentation of it as #1 freaked me out a little.

Publius, in that context and spoken aloud, it would never have occurred to me to assume she meant the statement more broadly. It makes sense as to discrimination, it makes much less sense otherwise. Thanks for the context, which I had not seen before.

MDS, it's entirely possible that Sotomayor's reference to physiological differences was limited to gender differences. People misspeak all the time.* But, at a minimum, it bears noting that this is not what she actually said, and that she didn't limit physiological differences to gender differences.

Hilzoy and Publius, I certain agree with your views regarding world #2. But I don't think that response answers the (admittedly, rather meek) criticism that I've lodged.

*My understanding is that these comments were prepared remarks, however.

I don't agree that it is at all obvious she is limiting herself to just discrimination cases. And certainly not obvious enough that you can accuse people who report otherwise as "affirmatively misleading the public."

She sets it in opposition to:

"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."

That isn't limited, so it isn't clear that her opposition comment is either.

ok seb - do you take her to be saying that latinas are better judges than white men? do you really think a sitting appellate judge would say that?

it's frankly hard for me to see how you all are reading it as even a semi-close call

Von, isn't it possible she simply assumed her audience was astute enough to match the appropriate terms and to not think she meant that national origin somehow influenced physiology?

And Sebastian, she illustrates her counterargument with a historical reference to sex discrimination rulings. No disrespect, but you're reaching here.

I think she is saying that white men have a limited view that is already well represented and that a latina woman would do better in most cases. Why wouldn't she say that?

But again, I think this quote is mostly bleh. The "we make policy quote" would be much worse if it weren't for the fact that most judges (note I don't say liberal judges) almost certainly believe that, and think it is peachy.

I think she is saying that white men have a limited view that is already well represented and that a latina woman would do better in most cases. Why wouldn't she say that?

Because she knows quite well there are situations when a white man would do better.

The "we make policy quote" would be much worse if it weren't for the fact that most judges (note I don't say liberal judges) almost certainly believe that, and think it is peachy.

Or rule quite narrowly BECAUSE of it? Descriptive, not prescriptive.

My 12:08 comment was also in response to Blar.

Gromit, I don't think it has anything to do with the astuteness of her audience .... perhaps you mean the sympathies of her audience (i.e., that they, like most ObWi'ers, will give her the most charitable view because they agree with her politically).

Like I said, I don't think that this remark is disqualifying. But it seems as though that, at a minimum, it's very poorly phrased. My hope is that when she's questioned about this at the hearing she'll simply say, hey, maybe I was a little unclear, what I really meant was X, rather than dig in and defend it as a completely clear and reasonable remark such that anyone who thinks something different must be "affirmatively misleading" the public.

"Or rule quite narrowly BECAUSE of it? Descriptive, not prescriptive."

Have you seen the video? It is clearly a gaffe along the lines of "I know I'm not supposed to say this, the silly people won't like it".

Well, there are a lot of truths that are (seen as) better not spoken in public. That judges influence law and policy is imo independent of their philosophies. The mere fact that they apply something (ideally) abstract on concrete reality does it.
To use a very shaky analogy: Does a test driver (the judge of a new car) influence the design of cars? I think he does, although it's not usually him doing the drawing. But his judgement will go back to the designers that will (if they trust the tester) lead to changes either in the design or the instruction manual ('you better don't do this or that with this vehicle'). Of course there are 'activist' testers with biased reviews too but a designer crying 'how dare he insinuate that this design has these unintended hazards' on a regular base would not be taken seriously for long (unless he is a large defense contractor).
As for Sotomayor's gaffe, I think she had the choice to either add a boring clarification (that would still be interpreted as an ass-covering evasion) or to make a joke. the 'gaffe', I think, was to state the reality-that-is-not-supposed-to be.

MDS, it's entirely possible that Sotomayor's reference to physiological differences was limited to gender differences. People misspeak all the time.* But, at a minimum, it bears noting that this is not what she actually said, and that she didn't limit physiological differences to gender differences.

Perhaps you could give a go at reading Sotomayor as charitably as you're attempting to read McArdle on another thread.

Publius: Your main post is a good defense I think. I don’t agree with you, but it is a legitimate defense. You might want to get the administration on board though because they have been walking back the remark. They are going with the “misspoke” defense. They’re talking about context as well but the focus is on “misspoke”:
http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0509/23102.html

"I'm sure she would have restated it,” President Barack Obama said in an interview with NBC News, referring to Sotomayor’s speech that was later reprinted in a law journal. “But if you look in the entire sweep of the essay that she wrote what's clear is she was simply saying that her life experiences will give information about the struggle, the hardships that people are going through, that will make her a good judge.

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs went a little further, saying, “I think she’d say that her word choice in 2001 was poor.”

That seems to at least concede that they understand that the remark is problematic.

i agree the word choice was poor, but she didn't say what impeccably-honest, but sadly-mistaken, men like Limbaugh, Buchanan, Gingrich and Hannity want her to have said.

"Of course there are 'activist' testers with biased reviews too but a designer crying 'how dare he insinuate that this design has these unintended hazards' on a regular base would not be taken seriously for long (unless he is a large defense contractor)."

He would be if test drivers got into the habit of blatantly rigging their test drives to favor the sorts of cars they liked. And some of them expressed the opinion that was just part of the job.

She's quite precise, and these were prepared remarks.

She doesn't *claim* that there are innate or cultural differences between the genders or among racial groups relevant to judging, but sdhe says she's open to the possibility and doesn't treact negatively to it. Fine with me, but controversial.

She does not limit herself to discrimination cases,but gives them as an example.

She says it is popssible for a judge with no common experience with a litigant to be fair, but more difficult.

She "hopes" Latina judges will do better.

These are carefully-phrased remarks.

I agree it is implausible that she thinks Latinas are a master race-gender of super-judges. She is saying that narrow range of experience on the bench is bad.

Perhaps you could give a go at reading Sotomayor as charitably as you're attempting to read McArdle on another thread.

Huh? Sotomayor literally says that physiological differences between people of different race may influence their judgment or fitness to be a judge; yet, I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt that she doesn't really mean what she said.

By the way, I noted that McArdle is unclear on a number of points, and I agree with many of Hilzoy's front-page arguments. My dispute was with a comment that Hilzoy made (and Eric seconded), which ascribed a view to McArdle that wasn't in McArdle's piece. I don't know how that is giving McArdle the benefit of the doubt: If it's not there, it's not there.

By the way, I think that the right thing to do here is also the politically smart thing to do here. Sotomayor only gets derailed if she creates some sort of controversey at the hearing. There's no way to offer a full-throated defense of these remarks without the risk of saying (or believing) something that's much more controversial. The easiest path is for Sotomayor to say that she was unclear, and that all she meant was that we all bring a breadth of experience to our judging.

Sotomayor literally says that physiological differences between people of different race may influence their judgment or fitness to be a judge;

ffs. no. she. didn't.

she clearly compared a Latina woman with a certain set of experiences to a white man who doesn't have those experiences. it's the experiences that make the difference, not the physiological differences.

Sotomayor literally says that physiological differences between people of different race may influence their judgment or fitness to be a judge; yet, I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt that she doesn't really mean what she said.

She's talking about race and gender. In context, assuming that 'physiological' refers to racial difference (which would be nutty) rather than gender difference (which, you know, would be perfectly reasonable, given that the physiological differences associated with gender lead to a very distinct set of possible life experiences) seems unnecessarily uncharitable.

Sorry about that -- the first thing I saw on the thread was von's last comment, and I responded to it without looking to see if it had been responded to above. Obviously, many people have straightened von out about this already.

In any case, the 'literally says' is nonsense. In a vacuum, either interpretation of the statement, whether physiological differences were intended to relate to race, gender, or both, would be equally plausible. In context, interpreting it as referring to race is lunatic.

Huh? Sotomayor literally says that physiological differences between people of different race may influence their judgment or fitness to be a judge;

See, now, she doesn't "literally" do this at all, von -- you're doing here EXACTLY what you're accusing hilzoy of doing elsewhere: Ascribing a view that is not supported by a plain reading of the text. You yourself said, in the post I responded to, "[Sotomayor] didn't limit physiological differences to gender differences." Nor, per her quote, did she specifically ascribe physiological differences to racial differences. You are plainly and simply pulling that from your rectum.

Look, you're an educated guy. Surely you've taken some writing courses in your life. Surely you've heard of "parallel construction." But in case you haven't, looking at Sotomayor's quote -- and removing the parenthetical phrase between the commas -- gives us:

Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences . . . our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging."
Now, clearly, gender and national origin do not arise from experience, so "experience" is not a referent for "gender and national origins." So that leaves us two parallel phrases: "inherent physiological or cultural differences," and "gender and national origins." Mapping those two parallel phrases one-to-one is left as an exercise for the reader.

Bob Herbert, The Howls of a Fading Species, NYT:

Are we supposed to not notice that these are the tribunes of a party that rose to power on the filthy waves of racial demagoguery[?] I don’t remember hearing their voices or the voices of their intellectual heroes when the Republican Party, as part of its Southern strategy, aggressively courted the bigots who fled the Democratic Party because the Democrats had become insufficiently hostile to blacks.

Where were the howls of outrage at this strategy that was articulated by Lee Atwater as follows: “By 1968, you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff.”

Never a peep did you hear.


But if the first-ever Latina appointed to SCOTUS should refer to herself as a "wise Latina", at that point, suddenly, all of these white Republicans howl "RACIST!"

Why is anyone taking this kind of crap seriously?

Sotomayer is a conservative choice, typically Obama. The people who don't like the idea of a Latina on the Supreme Court would be finding some reason or another to fulminate against her selection whatever she'd said. Whatever. Like the people who don't like the idea of a black man as President were coming up with all sorts of stupid reasons why they weren't going to vote for Obama, based on eff-all.

Like Lee Atwater said: explicit declarations of racism, these days, backfire. Instead, you use codewords. And they work for the intended audience.

"That seems to at least concede that they understand that the remark is problematic."

Not really. What it does seem to concede is that the over-blown reaction to an innocuous phrase is problematic.

One of Obama's biggest failings is a trust that people are basically reasonable. I do think he is finally realizing that isn't true and making adjustments.

Lizardbreath, I don't think that the context you're referencing has much to do with the issue at hand. Indeed, for the purposes of the following response, I assume that Sotomayor is limiting all of her comments to discrimination cases (a plausible interpretation, but not the only plausible interpretation).

In response to Lizardbreath, Phil, and Cleek -

As an opener: (1) again, I don't regard this statement as disqualifying and (2) I think that Sotomayor deserves the benefit of the doubt in any event.

That said, Sotomayor did literally say that physiological differences between people of different race may influence their judgment or fitness to be a judge. (Note the word "may" on my part; it was intentional in the first instance and it's intentional here as well.) Here's the passage:

Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, ... our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging.

Let's proceed from the least awkward to the truly awkward.

First, it seems clear that Sotomayor believes that "our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging." (The only part that's unclear is how something "may and will" do something else, but that's not material to this issue.) Incidentally, I agree with Sotomayor's point from a descriptivist perspective. I disagree with Sotomayor to the extent that she is suggesting that such is a good thing.

Second, it's clear that Sotomayor believes that the differences created by "gender and national origins" arise from "[e]xperience" or "inherent physiological ... differences" or "inherent ... cultural differences".

Contra Phil, there's no one-to-one tracking here. The sentence structure provides that any one of these three causes -- "[e]xperience" or "inherent physiological ... differences" or "inherent ... cultural differences" -- can be reflected in either gender or national origin. (I'll assume that Sotomayor's application of "inherent" to "cultural differences" is simply awkward phrasing - although, again, she literally indicated that cultral differences can be inherent.)

Contra Lizardbreath, there's no context that says that "inherent physiological ... differences" must be applied to gender and cannot be applied to national origin. Indeed, the paragraph immediately preceeding this one discounts the ability of white judges to provide correct decisions in discrimination cases ("I agree that this is significant [that the judges were white males] 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.") As I pointed out on other threads, this is a reductionist view that assumes a one-to-one correlation between race and experience. I agree with LB that this is probably not what Sotomayor meant, however.

Look, the bottom line is that Sotomayor gave a speech that contains some phrasing that is awkward, at best, in ways that are embarrassing. That doesn't mean that Sotomayor is a bad person. Nor do I become Sean Hannity for pointing any of this out.

By the way, Phil, I don't think that deep thoughts on parallel construction has much to offer the analysis here. Also:

Nor, per her quote, did she specifically ascribe physiological differences to racial differences. You are plainly and simply pulling that from your rectum.

I didn't accuse Sotomayor of "specifically ascrib[ing] physiological differences to racial differences." I wrote -- now, for the third time -- that Sotomayor literally stated that "that physiological differences between people of different race may influence their judgment or fitness to be a judge[.]" (Emphasis added in the restating.)

Contra Phil, there's no one-to-one tracking here.

As part of my career, I edit other peoples' writing, so I think I'll take my word on this over yours, thanks.

I'll assume that Sotomayor's application of "inherent" to "cultural differences" is simply awkward phrasing

Luckily, she didn't say that. She said "inherent physiological or cultural differences." It may surprise you to discover that "inherent" can modify "physiological" in that sentence without modifying "cultural." Again, in parallel construction, when you have a list of things -- for example, "inherent physiological differences" and "cultural differences" -- you can group them without having a single adjective modify them all.

This is basic grammar, von. Unless one is determined to be obtuse about it.

Sotomayor did literally say that physiological differences between people of different race may influence their judgment or fitness to be a judge.

The irrefutable argument by repeated assertion. First, this is a misuse of the word "literally". For the above quoted statement to be true, Sotomayor would have had to have said "physiological differences between people of different race may influence their judgment or fitness to be a judge." which she did not. What you mean is that she said something other than "physiological differences between people of different race may influence their judgment or fitness to be a judge," which you believe to unambiguously have the same meaning as "physiological differences between people of different race may influence their judgment or fitness to be a judge." You are wrong about this -- the structure of the sentence does not require that 'physiological' relate back to race rather than gender. It doesn't absolutely rule it out, but it doesn't require it, which means that you're taking a grammatically ambiguous sentence, and interpreting it in a ridiculous fashion.

The context that makes that ridiculous, is that she's talking about being Latina, and that she's not an idiot. It would be racist and incorrect, but not actually incoherent, to believe that there were 'physiological' differences between people of predominately European descent, predominately African descent, and predominately Native American descent that had some effect on their judging. Given that being Latina provides no information whatsoever about whether one's ancestry is predominately European, African, or Native American, or any mixture of the three or of any two of the three, believing in meaningful physiological differences between Latina and non-Latina judges requires either ignorance of what being Latina implies about one's ancestry (unlikely, given that Judge Sotomayor is one), or a belief that there's some physiological difference between Latinas and non-Latinas attributable to something other than the geographical origins of their ancestors.

If you have to postulate that Sotomayor holds beliefs that bizarre to support your reading of her statement, that's pretty strong evidence that you're way off base.

Von: First, it seems clear that Sotomayor believes that "our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging.

And if you and other right-wingers didn't believe that was exactly true, why would you be making such a fuss about a Latina being appointed to the Supreme Court?

As part of my career, I edit other peoples' writing, so I think I'll take my word on this over yours, thanks.

Okaaaay ....

(Probability that a grammatical error will infect a declaration of one's grammatical superiority = 1.)

First, this is a misuse of the word "literally".

I know, but I typed it that way the first time and figured I'd stick with the ship.

You are wrong about this -- the structure of the sentence does not require that 'physiological' relate back to race rather than gender. It doesn't absolutely rule it out, but it doesn't require it, which means that you're taking a grammatically ambiguous sentence, and interpreting it in a ridiculous fashion.

Wait, isn't that exactly what I'm saying? (Except for the "interpreting it in a ridiculous fashion" bit, of course.) Sotomayor's statement allows that physiological differences between people of different race may influence their judgment or fitness to be a judge. May. Not will. Not always.

Given that being Latina provides no information whatsoever about whether one's ancestry is predominately European, African, or Native American, or any mixture of the three or of any two of the three, believing in meaningful physiological differences between Latina and non-Latina judges requires either ignorance of what being Latina implies about one's ancestry (unlikely, given that Judge Sotomayor is one), or a belief that there's some physiological difference between Latinas and non-Latinas attributable to something other than the geographical origins of their ancestors.

That was actually part of my original point, on a prior thread, which was that the real problem with Sotomayor's statement was that it was terribly reductionist -- however construed. Latino/a does not imply a single culture, single background, single set of experiences, etc. Cuban immigrants in Florida are not Puerto Ricans in the Bronx are not Mexican-Americans in Laredo.

I agree with you that it is utterly idiotic to combine all Latinas in a single monolithic cultural group or background. But I'm not the one doing that. Sotomayor is.

As I said, this was a very awkward speech.

Wait, isn't that exactly what I'm saying?

No. You're claiming that Sotomayor unambiguously claimed that there were physiological differences between Latinas and 'white' people that may affect their judging. That's a grammatically not-impossible but substantively ridiculous reading of her statement.

I agree with you that it is utterly idiotic to combine all Latinas in a single monolithic cultural group or background. But I'm not the one doing that. Sotomayor is.

You've completely missed my point. My point is that it would be absurd for anyone who knew what the word 'Latina' meant, in terms of ancestry, to believe that there were consistent physiological differences between Latinas and people of predominately European ancestry, given that plenty of Latinas are people of predominately European ancestry.

To interpret Sotomayor's statement as you do, you have to attribute a belief to her either that Latino/a describes a group sharing a common geographical origin (i.e., European, African, or Native American, as opposed to the truth, which is that Latinos can belong to any of the above ethnicities or any mixture of them), or a belief that there are physiological differences between Latino/as and white people unrelated to their ancestry. Either one is ridiculous.

If someone says something that can be interpreted in a sane manner, but that it's grammatically possible to interpret in a ridiculous manner, one conventionally goes for the sane interpretation.

As part of my career, I edit other peoples' writing, so I think I'll take my word on this over yours, thanks.

Okaaaay ....

(Probability that a grammatical error will infect a declaration of one's grammatical superiority = 1.)

Yes, von, I'm a poor typist and don't use a proofreader at ObWi. I guess that means I don't know what I'm talking about.

Tell you what: You can gainsay me on matters of law, and I'll gainsay you on matters of writing and language.

Sotomayor's statement allows that physiological differences between people of different race may influence their judgment or fitness to be a judge.

Except you've still yet to establish that "physiological differences" in the sentence in question refers to race rather than gender, which everyone aside from you (and conservatives who seem determined to smear Sotomayor as a racist) seems to be able to understand.

No von, you were saying that she said that there were physiological differences between races and that furthermore those differences may influence their judgement.

And saying you decided that you would stick with the ship is something I didn't think I would read from you. You have frequently requested that people own up to their mistakes, but you won't own up to yours. A simple "You're right, I was wrong to say literally and what I meant was that my interpretation of what she said is" would have sufficed.

Your interpretation still is a stretch by most standards, but it is a somewhat legitimate interpretation.

No. You're claiming that Sotomayor unambiguously claimed that there were physiological differences between Latinas and 'white' people that may affect their judging. That's a grammatically not-impossible but substantively ridiculous reading of her statement.

I don't think that Sotomayor unambigously said anything, Lizardbreath. I also don't see the point in continuing this debate because I don't see a disagreement between us on this point.

You've completely missed my point. My point is that it would be absurd for anyone who knew what the word 'Latina' meant, in terms of ancestry, to believe that there were consistent physiological differences between Latinas and people of predominately European ancestry, given that plenty of Latinas are people of predominately European ancestry.

No, I got your point. I just pointed out that it is equally "absurd for anyone who knew what the word 'Latina' meant, in terms of ancestry, to believe that there were consistent [experiential/cultural/etc.] differences between Latinas and people of predominately European ancestry, given that plenty of Latinas are people of predominately European ancestry." As well as absurd to suggest that Latinas have some common set of experiences given the utter breadth of the term.

Phil, I was making a joke. I didn't respond further not because of your typo, but because your additional comments don't require an additional response. I said everything I needed to say in prior comments. (Heck, if I have less than 15 typos per comment, I'm happy.)

And saying you decided that you would stick with the ship is something I didn't think I would read from you. You have frequently requested that people own up to their mistakes, but you won't own up to yours. A simple "You're right, I was wrong to say literally and what I meant was that my interpretation of what she said is" would have sufficed.

But I'm not backing off my point; only the misuse of the term literally.

von, thank you for agreeing with what I said, even if it was somewhat ambiguous. At least you are now saying that it is your interpretation of what she said as opposed to what she actually said.

And again, it is your interpretation, an understandable one but not necessarily accurate, that she suggested that all Latinas have a common set of experiences. Of course my interpretation is that she is not speaking of all Latinas having the sazme set of experiences, but that Latina women, although each of them may have different experiences from each other, still have different experiences, for the most part, from white males.

After all, she is specifically referring to white males that don't have the same set of experiences than "a" Latina women, not that no white male would have approximately the same set of experiences. And she also specifically said that a white male could make a major effort to understand those experiences, just that she is not sure too many do.

After all, she is specifically referring to white males that don't have the same set of experiences than "a" Latina women, not that no white male would have approximately the same set of experiences.

That proves far too much, John. "A" white male hasn't had the same set of experiences as another white male. (And leave aside the fact that one can be both Latino and white.) But that wasn't Sotomayor's point. Sotomayor claims that there are experiences that could be confidentially described as Latina. I that's not correct.

I don't think that Sotomayor unambigously said anything, Lizardbreath.

Huh. In that case I don't know what you meant by 'literally' at all. I mean, it was clear that it was a slip from the beginning, and what you meant was something along the lines of "she obviously or unambiguously meant that 'physiological differences between people of different race may influence their judgment or fitness to be a judge'". But if you didn't mean that, I don't understand your statements on that point in the slightest.

I just pointed out that it is equally "absurd for anyone who knew what the word 'Latina' meant, in terms of ancestry, to believe that there were consistent [experiential/cultural/etc.] differences between Latinas and people of predominately European ancestry, given that plenty of Latinas are people of predominately European ancestry."

This is wrong. Regardless of the geographical origin of their ancestors, someone who identifies as Latino/a is overwhelmingly likely to have the social experience of being treated as non-white, or as only ambiguously white. That doesn't mean that the experiences of a Puerto Rican woman living in the Bronx are precisely similar to those of a man of Mexican origin living in Texas, but they're very likely to have at least some shared experiences that a white judge won't share. Latino/a is a broad concept, but it's a social, rather than biological concept -- the idea that there are experiences likely to be common to Latinos and unfamiliar to 'white' people is not absurd at all, while the idea that there are 'physiological' commonalities among Latinos that distinguish them generally from 'white' people is absurd.

Von: "A" white male hasn't had the same set of experiences as another white male.

Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack:

1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.

2. I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me.

3. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.

4. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.

5. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.

6. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.

7. When I am told about our national heritage or about "civilization," I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.

8. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.

9. If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.

10. I can be pretty sure of having my voice heard in a group in which I am the only member of my race.

The Male Privilege Checklist:

1. My odds of being hired for a job, when competing against female applicants, are probably skewed in my favor. The more prestigious the job, the larger the odds are skewed.

2. I can be confident that my co-workers won’t think I got my job because of my sex - even though that might be true. (More).

3. If I am never promoted, it’s not because of my sex.

4. If I fail in my job or career, I can feel sure this won’t be seen as a black mark against my entire sex’s capabilities.

5. I am far less likely to face sexual harassment at work than my female co-workers are. (More).

6. If I do the same task as a woman, and if the measurement is at all subjective, chances are people will think I did a better job.

7. If I’m a teen or adult, and if I can stay out of prison, my odds of being raped are relatively low. (More).

8. I am not taught to fear walking alone after dark in average public spaces.

9. If I choose not to have children, my masculinity will not be called into question.

10. If I have children but do not provide primary care for them, my masculinity will not be called into question.

Just as an example.

Sotomayor claims that there are experiences that could be confidentially described as Latina. I [think] that's not correct.

...just as you think, I'm sure, that there are no experiences that could be described as straight or cisgendered.

"'A' white male hasn't had the same set of experiences as another white male."

There are a considerable number of experiences that all people perceived as "white" share in this country, that those perceived otherwise do not share, and there are a considerable number of experiences that all people perceived as male share in this country that those perceived as female don't share. Do you disagree?

Someone perceived as a Latina lacks, for the most part, these experiences. Need I elaborate?

"Sotomayor claims that there are experiences that could be confidentially described as Latina. I that's not correct."

There are a number of shared experiences Latinas have that white males don't experience. Do I really need to elaborate on this? For instance, do you menstruate? Have you ever experienced being treated as a minority in America because of your accent? If so, how commonly have you experienced that? Have you ever had someone assume that you're in a position because of affirmative action? Have you ever had someone assume you must be Catholic? Do you commonly use the women's toilet? Have you ever been a member of a Latino organization?

Really, I could keep going on these for quite a long time. It's not a complicated point.

Regardless of the geographical origin of their ancestors, someone who identifies as Latino/a is overwhelmingly likely to have the social experience of being treated as non-white, or as only ambiguously white. That doesn't mean that the experiences of a Puerto Rican woman living in the Bronx are precisely similar to those of a man of Mexican origin living in Texas, but they're very likely to have at least some shared experiences that a white judge won't share.

To illustrate this point, refer to G. Gordon Liddy's recent reference to Sotomayor's association with La Raza, which -- according to Liddy -- "means, in illegal alien, 'the race.'"

Sotomayor is from Puerto Rico which is, of course, American territory, but hey, as far as Liddy is apparently concerned, anyone who speaks Spanish is just a wetback.

"Sotomayor claims that there are experiences that could be confidentially described as Latina. I say that's not correct."

Yes, there are. Not by every single Latina everywhere at all times in the history of the world, but in modern America, generally speaking, there are many shared experiences. For example: discrimination. Such that - in a talk about DISCRIMINATION cases!!! - Sotomayor has a point.

As I explained in our last go round on this Von, just imagine a black man suggesting circa Brown v Board of Ed that a black judge might be able to pull on certain insights inherent in the "black experience" to reach an informed conclusion.

Would you then argue that there is no monolithic black experience in all respects and therefore the speaker's point was invalid? Or would you understand that certain experiences shared widely by a certain group lends credence to the statement?

I don't think that Sotomayor unambigously said anything, Lizardbreath.

Huh. In that case I don't know what you meant by 'literally' at all. I mean, it was clear that it was a slip from the beginning, and what you meant was something along the lines of "she obviously or unambiguously meant that 'physiological differences between people of different race may influence their judgment or fitness to be a judge'". But if you didn't mean that, I don't understand your statements on that point in the slightest.

My statement was confusing, but it's no different from my points throughout this thread. What Sotomayor "said" is clear, and it is as I have indicated. What Sotomayor "meant" by what she said is unclear. As Obama's spokesman has claimed on her behalf, it's entirely possible that she misspoke.

This is wrong. Regardless of the geographical origin of their ancestors, someone who identifies as Latino/a is overwhelmingly likely to have the social experience of being treated as non-white, or as only ambiguously white.

In many places for many folks who fit the category of Latino/a, sure. But even those experiences will differ, and differ in quite radical ways.

Again, my basic point is that John's explanation for Sotomayor's comment proves too much, because it's applicable to two different white dudes. That wasn't Sotomayor's point, and, even if it were, it wouldn't be a very useful observation.

Jes, you've missed my point.

Gary, you as well.

Phil, Libby's an idiot.

Eric, I happen to think that this argument is much better made with respect to the black experience. I disagree that you can adopt a consistent view with respect to Latino/a -- given how vague and broad the term is -- but of course you can draw a similar line based on skin color and, in part, social and/or economic status.

No it is not clear, von, at least not in the way you would like it to be.
I am not even a fervent supporter of Sotomayor as I think she tends to lean too far to the right.

I know you would like to think it is clear, but, as many people have pointed out, what you think is clear is your interpretation of what she said, not what she actually said.

And that is why I mentioned above that it would be nice if you just said, "In my opinion, this is how I interpret what she said..." and acknowledged that an interpretation is all it is.

What Sotomayor "said" is clear, and it is as I have indicated. What Sotomayor "meant" by what she said is unclear.
Why are you "using" quotation marks "pointlessly"?
Jes, you've missed my point.

Gary, you as well.

No, we're pointing out your claim is wrong, and as usual you're denying it.

"Phil, Libby's an idiot."

Liddy.

"In many places for many folks who fit the category of Latino/a, sure. But even those experiences will differ, and differ in quite radical ways."

Which still means that "white" males have a long list of common experiences that Latinas do not, and that Latinas have a long list of common experiences that "white" males do not. Dancing around the point doesn't change it. This is elementary logic, von: that two sets of people have some similar traits/experiences doesn't mean that each set doesn't have some dissimilar experiences.

You wrote: "Sotomayor claims that there are experiences that could be confidentially [confidentally[ described as Latina. I [say] that's not correct."

But it is. There are such experiences. You admit this:

Regardless of the geographical origin of their ancestors, someone who identifies as Latino/a is overwhelmingly likely to have the social experience of being treated as non-white, or as only ambiguously white.

In many places for many folks who fit the category of Latino/a, sure.

You can stop there.

Eric, I happen to think that this argument is much better made with respect to the black experience. I disagree that you can adopt a consistent view with respect to Latino/a -- given how vague and broad the term is -- but of course you can draw a similar line based on skin color and, in part, social and/or economic status.

No doubt you feel the same way about the Asian American experience.

May I ask what your experience and knowledge is of the Hispanic experience?

Jes, you've missed my point.

Have I? Your point, as I understood it, was that there's no such thing as "the white male experience" or "the Latina experience".

Which I refuted, with two links. You can try to dispute the content of the links - people do, you'll find helpful advice about how to do it all over the place - but you cannot simply tell me I "missed your point" without explanation of what else you could possibly have meant by "'A' white male hasn't had the same set of experiences as another white male."

A four point response to my several critics, many of whom are not understanding what I'm writing (or are making assumptions regarding my views that are incorrect).

1. If we're going to talk about discrimination and/or cultural experiences between groups, it's useful to be precise.

2. Examples of terms that are not precise: Latino/a and Asian American. These terms both capture too many different cultures and do a poor job at identifying the salient experience(s).

3. White/black and white/nonwhite, on the other hand, are useful descriptors when we're talking about common experiences.

4. As are more precise cultural descriptors, such as Cuban-American and Mexican-American (within the larger framework of "Latino"); and Japanese-American, Phillipino-American, or Indian-American (within the larger framework of "Asian-American").

2. On the other hand

Von, you're not getting any clearer. First you say: I don't think that Sotomayor unambigously said anything, Lizardbreath.

Then you say: What Sotomayor "said" is clear, and it is as I have indicated.

So, it wasn't unambiguous, but it was clear?

I agree with your first statement, that it was ambiguous whether 'physiological' referred to gender, race, or both, if you assume she's an idiot who doesn't know that Latino/as aren't a group defined by the geographical origin of their ancestors. If you give her credit for not being an idiot, that resolves any ambiguity.

I don't understand how you reconcile "I don't think that Sotomayor unambigously said anything" with "What Sotomayor "said" is clear," though.

"1. If we're going to talk about discrimination and/or cultural experiences between groups, it's useful to be precise."

This is a vague generality, which doesn't change the fact that there are experiences a Latino woman has that a "white" man doesn't.

2. Examples of terms that are not precise: Latino/a and Asian American."

This is a vague generality, which doesn't change the fact that there are experiences a Latino woman has that a 'white' man doesn't.

"3. White/black and white/nonwhite, on the other hand, are useful descriptors when we're talking about common experiences."

So are "Latino" and "women."

There are, in fact, no "precise" terms that describe all members of groups such as "white people," "black people," "men," "women," "bloggers," or "lawyers." Yet we can still talk perfectly usefully about commonalities within these groups.

Von, you're one of the most stubborn people I've ever seen in blogging in terms of a) never knowing when to quit digging when in a hole; or b) ever ever ever admitting getting something wrong, or withdrawing or modifying a claim. Instead, people are always, somehow, misunderstanding you. I suppose this is a useful trait in a lawyer, but it doesn't make for the most productive of conversations.

Can we stick a fork in both the “out of context” and the “misspoke” lines now?
http://theplumline.whorunsgov.com/senate-republicans/exclusive-sotomayor-made-same-wise-latina-comment-in-1990s-and-no-one-objected/

1994 speech:

“Justice O’Connor has often been cited as saying that “a wise old man and a wise old woman reach the same conclusion in dueling cases. I am not so sure Justice O’Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes the line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, if Prof. Martha Minnow is correct, there can never be a universal definition of ‘wise.’ Second, I would hope that a wise woman with the richness of her experience would, more often than not, reach a better conclusion.”

The line was delivered twice, 7 years apart. Only gender this time – but come on…

von: Examples of terms that are not precise: Latino/a and Asian American. These terms both capture too many different cultures and do a poor job at identifying the salient experience(s).

And you know this because you are yourself Latino/a, and are therefore in just as good a position as Sotomayor to argue that it's not the right identifier?

Or you know this because you're a white man, and that's part of your experience as a white male: the belief that you have the right to decide on behalf of others how they should identify themselves.

(I realize that if you are, unexpectedly, outing yourself as Latino, I have just made a mortal fool of myself. I can deal with that.)

"Only gender this time – but come on…"

And you're saying that as regards decisions that affect women, it's not likely that women will often have better insights? What's the controversy here, OCSteve?

2. Examples of terms that are not precise: Latino/a and Asian American. These terms both capture too many different cultures and do a poor job at identifying the salient experience(s).

I'm glad you're telling me, an Asian American, about this.

I'm going to be -- apparently -- terribly controversial, and assert that as regards issues that affect the Jewish people, I'm more apt to be better able to make a better decision than non-Jews, that as regards issues that affect bloggers, as regards issues that affect bloggers, I'm more apt to be better able to make a better decision than non-bloggers, and that as regards issues that affect the short people, I'm more apt to be better able to make a better decision than tall people.

Shocking, isn't it?

2. Examples of terms that are not precise: Latino/a and Asian American. These terms both capture too many different cultures and do a poor job at identifying the salient experience(s).

3. White/black and white/nonwhite, on the other hand, are useful descriptors when we're talking about common experiences.

You're really, really overthinking this, or not thinking it through enough, one or the other.

A black American whose ancestors were slaves in the Carolinas in the 19th century, and a black American whose grandparents came over from Uganda in the 1970s, are going to have had as diverse a set of experiences as the Mexican-American and Cuban-American people you posit.

Yet you agree that there's probably a common set of experiences that our slave-descended black American and our Ugandan-descended black American would have shared that the descriptor "black" is useful enough to encompass both.

But somehow, "Latino/Latina" is not enough to encompass the set of common experiences -- like, say, being called an illegal alien or a wetback or the like, or being stereotyped as hot-tempered, or as lazy, or as eating nothing but spicy foods -- shared by our Mexican-American and our Cuban-American.

How can this possibly be the case?

I'm thinking that von is planning a career change into advertising demographics. Or trying to become the next Mark Penn.

You're really, really overthinking this, or not thinking it through enough, one or the other.

Or is undereducated about the particulars of the culture and on social factors in general, and relies on mainstream knowledge (which isn't up to the task).

I'm more apt to be better able to make a better decision than

*-ist !

The line was delivered twice, 7 years apart. Only gender this time

so i guess that kills the racism aspect. too bad!

maybe the GOP should play up that whole women angle.

I'm thinking that von is planning a career change into advertising demographics.

Haha. I can tell you that my company has a service which targets all Spanish-speaking audiences in the US for news distribution. The service is called "LatinoWire," which we chose after consulting with our outside partner, the publisher of most of the leading Spanish-language newspapers in the US and the leading Spanish-language web portals. I'm sure von can explain to my CEO why there isn't sufficient shared experience among those various audiences for the product to receive that name.

Or is undereducated about the particulars of the culture and on social factors in general, and relies on mainstream knowledge (which isn't up to the task).

Or, possibly, has a fairly diverse group of friends who have strong opinions on these subjects.

A black American whose ancestors were slaves in the Carolinas in the 19th century, and a black American whose grandparents came over from Uganda in the 1970s, are going to have had as diverse a set of experiences as the Mexican-American and Cuban-American people you posit.

Yet you agree that there's probably a common set of experiences that our slave-descended black American and our Ugandan-descended black American would have shared that the descriptor "black" is useful enough to encompass both.

But somehow, "Latino/Latina" is not enough to encompass the set of common experiences -- like, say, being called an illegal alien or a wetback or the like, or being stereotyped as hot-tempered, or as lazy, or as eating nothing but spicy foods -- shared by our Mexican-American and our Cuban-American.

How can this possibly be the case?

If you've noticed, I seldom use the term "African American," but instead prefer the term "black." That wasn't always my preference. One of my closest friends' family comes from an island in the Carribean. He would point out, quite pointedly, that it was a mistake to call him an African American -- but that he definitely understood what it meant to be black in America.

but that he definitely understood what it meant to be black in America.

[i'm going to assume you're white. feel free to correct me.]

do you understand it as well as he did ?

all other things being equal, would a black lawyer understand a little bit more about a lot of things than you do ? well, not about being white, obviously. but frankly, most of American pop culture is about being white, so i don't suppose it's that hard to figure out the basics. and as a SCOTUS member, the other 8 people could certainly fill-in any non-white member who had questions about any mysterious aspects of whiteness that might come up.

Right. And both a Mexican-American and a Cuban-American understand what it is to be Latino in America.

Another data point: Many (most?) people assume all the day workers and migrant workers they see are Mexicans, when in fact a huge proportion of them are Salvadoran and Guatemalan. Three different national origins, a shared Latino experience, and one that's significant in the context of just what it is Sotomayor is talking about in the first place.

Put another way, I think that it's vaguely insulting -- and definitely ignorant -- to lump the diverse experiences of folks from Japan, Korea,* China, India, and elsewhere in Asia into one common pool -- "Asian-American" -- and pretend that there is some kind of common experience. There really isn't such a common experience, except in that each group has been separately discriminated against by the majority culture as "not white". Otherwise, their experiences are diverse and individual.

Now, I accept that the majority view is to do exactly what I think is mistaken: pretend that there is, for instance, an "Asian-American" culture (or Latino/a culture). But I happen to think that the majority view, expressed by my critics on this blog, is erroneous, imprecise, and betrays a certain lack of imagination and, perhaps, lack of consideration. I would rather talk about a white/not white/black set of common experiences and then additionally talk about what it means to be, e.g., second generation Korean-American or Puerto Rican.

"Or, possibly, has a fairly diverse group of friends who have strong opinions on these subjects."

You seem to be continuing to obviously be confusing the fact that groups with commonalities have differences with the notion that groups with commonalities have no commonalities.

*Some of this, again, is based on personal embarrassment, including the experience of erroneously calling someone whose family is from from Korea, Japanese. You do tend to get corrected on that one.

He would point out, quite pointedly, that it was a mistake to call him an African American -- but that he definitely understood what it meant to be black in America.

I used to know a British guy working in New York who would respond to people who identified him as "African-American" with "Sorry, neither." And this has what to do with your assertion that you, a white man, know better than a Latina that there is no such thing as "the Latina experience" or the "white male experience"?

Or, possibly, has a fairly diverse group of friends who have strong opinions on these subjects.

Doesn't seem likely, given your absolute inability to figure out what's wrong with your claiming you, a white man, know better than a Latina or an Asian-American what they ought to call themselves. Perhaps your friends are not diverse: perhaps they don't have sufficiently strong opinions to stand up to you: perhaps they all like you too much to yell at you every time you say something incredibly stupid about race. I suspect the latter.

"Put another way, I think that it's vaguely insulting -- and definitely ignorant -- to lump the diverse experiences of folks from Japan, Korea,* China, India, and elsewhere in Asia into one common pool -- "Asian-American" -- and pretend that there is some kind of common experience."

Von, again, you're confusing the fact that -- as everyone with two brain cells to rub together knows -- generalities like "Asian-American" and "Latino" gloss together a vareity of subsets of distinct nationalities and cultures (that you think this needs explaining is remarkable, as it suggests that you think this is news to anyone) with the fact that groupings like "Latino" and "Asian-American" in fact cover distinct sets of people with commonalities. Which is why, duh, there are innumerable Latino organizations, and Asian-American organizations, not just Salvadoran, Korean, Vietnamese, Guatemalan, Mexican, etc., organizations.

Similarly, each of these countries can be subdivided into a variety of regional and cultural groups, etc. Similarly, "Jewish" lumps together people of all "races," and a huge number of cultures, not just Ashkenazi and Sephardic, but from individual nations, and sects, and regions, and villages, and so on. If someone were generalizing about Jews in a way that made that point relevant, I'd point it out, but I'm not going to object to being called a Jew, or to Jewish people being considered to be, on the whole, Jewish, just because there are all these subdivisions.

Just as all groups are subdivisible, and all individuals are groupable.

"Some of this, again, is based on personal embarrassment"

And you're insanely over-correcting now. For crissake, how can you think everyone pointing out this stuff to you is wrong, and misunderstanding you?

"I would rather talk about a white/not white/black set of common experiences and then additionally talk about what it means to be, e.g., second generation Korean-American or Puerto Rican."

How you think this is arguing with anything anyone has written, I can't figure out.

Your claim, to remind you, was that "As well as absurd to suggest that Latinas have some common set of experiences given the utter breadth of the term."

It's not absurd; that there are numerous subgroups of "Latinos,"
and "women" doesn't mean that the concept of "Latinos" or "women" don't exist. This isn't complicated. You seem to clearly have your past conversation where your point was relevant confused with this conversation.

You further asserted that "Sotomayor claims that there are experiences that could be confidentially [confidentally] described as Latina."

And, woo-hoo, there are.

This is not a claim that all Latino people and all women are alike and have no sub-groupings.

Moreover, you're lecturing to readers who include Asian-Americans and Latinos and women that it's wrong for them to ever refer to themselves with these terms.

You really might want to stop and think about that.

"Some of this, again, is based on personal embarrassment, including the experience of erroneously calling someone whose family is from from Korea, Japanese."

There's a single word for what you're doing here, by the way: "projection."

I used to know a British guy working in New York who would respond to people who identified him as "African-American" with "Sorry, neither." And this has what to do with your assertion that you, a white man, know better than a Latina that there is no such thing as "the Latina experience" or the "white male experience"?

It speaks to the diversity of human experience, such that reducing someone to, e.g., "African-American" or "Latina," likely reduces her too far.

Now, an appropriate comeback is: fine, but isn't it equally reductionist -- perhaps moreso -- to reduce folks to their skin color. And I would absolutely agree with that, but note only that skin color is the basis for how one has been treated in the US. Tiger Woods is black. President Obama is black. Your friend is black. Sotomayor is brown. Those simple facts, more than anything, has defined their experience with racism because that is the first thing that other folks notice. Racism is, in many cases, literally skin deep.

I'm not trying to speak for anyone; I'm not trying to speak to any one person's experience save my own. I do think, however, that terms like Latina and Asian American create a kind of false understanding. To the extent that they reflect skin coloration or visible characteristics, they're useful for describing a set of experiences. But, at least in my hard-won experience, you tread on truly dangerous ground when you expect that they describe more.

Put another way, I think that it's vaguely insulting -- and definitely ignorant -- to lump the diverse experiences of folks from Japan, Korea,* China, India, and elsewhere in Asia into one common pool -- "Asian-American" -- and pretend that there is some kind of common experience. There really isn't such a common experience, except in that each group has been separately discriminated against by the majority culture as "not white". Otherwise, their experiences are diverse and individual.

I bow to your superior understanding.

I only taught Asian American studies for several years at a major public university.

Would you care for another shovel.

I'm not trying to speak for anyone; I'm not trying to speak to any one person's experience save my own.

You are not doing a very good job of this.

von: "Put another way, I think that it's vaguely insulting -- and definitely ignorant -- to lump the diverse experiences of folks from Japan, Korea,* China, India, and elsewhere in Asia into one common pool -- "Asian-American" -- and pretend that there is some kind of common experience. There really isn't such a common experience, except in that each group has been separately discriminated against by the majority culture as "not white". Otherwise, their experiences are diverse and individual."

The "except in that each group has been separately discriminated against by the majority culture as "not white"." part is key, and it is what everyone is insisting on (though I, at least, would omit "as not white" -- people can be discriminated against as Asian-American, Latino, whatever.)

The entire point is that when there are people who discriminate against a large chunk of people, regardless of the many differences in those people's backgrounds and experience, those people come to have one common set of shared experiences: namely, the experience of being discriminated against in that way.

Thus, the ignorance of Liddy and people like him ensures that Sonia Sotomayor will, as I will not, have the experience of being mistaken for an illegal alien because of her surname and ethnicity. His view of Latinos/Latinas determines how he treats them, and if his view lumps them all together, however wrongly, then they will tend to have that, and its results, in common.

Gary: And you're saying that as regards decisions that affect women, it's not likely that women will often have better insights? What's the controversy here

I’m saying give up on the “context” and “misspoke” defense. She said almost identical things, in prepared remarks, 7 years apart. That is no coincidence. That is a mindset.

No problem if you like her – she’ll still be confirmed. My complaint is the relative treatment.

In terms of the requisite “neener neener you did it too” - an interesting comparison might be with how Democrats treated Charles Pickering:
http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2009/06/02/its_not_fair_to_casually_call_people_racist_96778.html

Then-Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said Judge Pickering had displayed an "insensitivity to civil rights, to equal rights, especially to minorities. ... This (nomination) lays bare the administration's real position on civil rights." Leading liberal newspapers tolled the bell with headlines like "Extremist Judge Unfit to Sit on Appeals Court" in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and "Say No to This Throwback" in the Los Angeles Times.

The Democrats succeeded in torpedoing Pickering's nomination -- not to mention assassinating his character. More than "insensitive," he was called a crypto racist with a "segregationist past" (Paul Krugman). When President Bush offered Judge Pickering a recess appointment to avoid a Senate filibuster, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., breathed fire: "Here we are, on the weekend before a national holiday when we celebrate Martin Luther King's birthday, and George W. Bush celebrates it by appointing Charles Pickering, a known forceful advocate for a cross-burner in America, to the federal court of the United States."

At present we have the usual (fully predictable) bomb-throwers. Back then the leadership of the Democratic Party as well as supporting pundits smeared Pickering with allegations of a "segregationist past" (he was a Southern Democrat in the early 60’s) and by taking one judicial ruling completely out of context.

Today, while a couple of pundits are out of line, Republican leaders are treating Sotomayor with kid gloves and there is little doubt from any corner that she will be confirmed. Not only did the Pickering smear work to block the appointment but eventually he left the federal bench entirely.

Here at ObWi:
http://www.google.com/search?pz=1&ned=us&hl=en&q=site%3Ahttp%3A%2F%2Fobsidianwings.blogs.com%2F+%22Charles+Pickering%22&btnmeta%3Dsearch%3Dsearch=Search+the+Web

Katherine made a (rather half-hearted IMO) defense of the smear. Seb and others got the better of the argument in comments IMO. In other threads where Pickering came up Seb and others again had the stronger points.

I’ve never said she should not be confirmed. My complaint has been about differential treatment. I don’t even have to bring up Bork and Thomas…

I bow to your superior understanding.

I only taught Asian American studies for several years at a major public university.

Would you care for another shovel.

Sure. Is there, in your view, a common experience in the US as an "Asian American" that is not linked to skin color? In other words, are their commonalities in culture, language, and experience that stretch beyond a reaction -- positive, negative, whatever -- based on what's apparent in the first nanosecond?

I'm not saying that I have superior knowledge, by the way. Only that I think that some of these terms are obscuring more than illuminating. Do you disagree? Agree? Why?

Thus, the ignorance of Liddy and people like him ensures that Sonia Sotomayor will, as I will not, have the experience of being mistaken for an illegal alien because of her surname and ethnicity. His view of Latinos/Latinas determines how he treats them, and if his view lumps them all together, however wrongly, then they will tend to have that, and its results, in common.

That's true, but there's more to life than what bigots think of you, or even experiences of discrimination. This is a woman whose been a corporate litigator/federal judge for decades. Is racial discrimination really the most central part of her experience?

von: It speaks to the diversity of human experience, such that reducing someone to, e.g., "African-American" or "Latina," likely reduces her too far.

But referring to your friend from the Caribbean as "black" doesn't reduce him too far?

If Sotomayor made a point of saying "I don't think of myself as Latina: I think of myself as Puerto Rican", you'd have a point about not referring to her as "Latina".

But that isn't the case. What you are doing here is telling a Latina she shouldn't call herself Latina because in your view that's not precise enough and it "reduces her". You have no bloody right to do that to her. Or anyone. It would be like your telling your black friend that he's got to accept being identified by you as African-American because as far as you're concerned, that's what he is, never mind what he says he wants to be called.

OCSteve: I’m saying give up on the “context” and “misspoke” defense. She said almost identical things, in prepared remarks, 7 years apart. That is no coincidence. That is a mindset.

Yes, she thinks of herself as a wise woman, as a wise Latina. And from your comments, your reaction is evidently that this self-description is uppity - how dare she have the "mindset" that thinks of herself as wise?

Sure. Is there, in your view, a common experience in the US as an "Asian American" that is not linked to skin color? In other words, are their commonalities in culture, language, and experience that stretch beyond a reaction -- positive, negative, whatever -- based on what's apparent in the first nanosecond?

1) Common immigrant experience. That's shared, of course, with Eastern Europeans, of course, but it's a big shaper of experience.

2) Because of the common immigrant experience, they often settle in the geographic area of the same cities. You'll see Vietnamese, Cambodian, etc. in common, contiguous areas.

3) Often in the same areas, they'll be in similar industries (usually labor intensive things like hair care, groceries and restaurants).

4) Shared cultural landmarks are in the same area (while cuisine are not the same, supplies for cuisine are often ordered by the same stories), space for meeting areas are often in the same place, etc.

5) Internally, there's recognition of commonalities (the "would you want your sister to marry one" if I'm being a smart ass, the flock of friends, particularly among the second generation, if I'm not being a smartass--that group of friends is pan-Asian).

6) Once you do get a second and later generation, of course, the dynamics change considerably, as there is a common language among the differnent groups as well as the common experiences of discrimination.

7) With that 2nd generation, you find considerable inter-Asian marriage (and if you look at those marriages, look at the marriage parties--very pan Asian).

8) Politically speaking, there are over-arching social institutions and politicians that ALL Asian groups go to (there is, of course, political power in banding togther) for social help such as day care, mental health counseling, employment counseling, etc.

So, you have shared geography, shared industries, shared friends, shared associations and cultural landmarks and shared grandchildren. Sounds like a community to me. (Though it's an overall encompassing community; Korean American communities are part of the Asian American community).


Gary, I appreciate your views. You may even be correct. Additionally, I don't intend to instruct anyone regarding how he or she may want to refer to him or herself. I apologize to the extent that I implied as much.

What I do reject, however, is that the term "Latina" is a useful term in describing a set of experiences, such that one person could speak to -- and purport to represent -- the Latina experience. I don't think that you have to be Latina to realize that such is somewhat arrogant, and also plays into the very kinds of reductionist fantasies that we should be trying to eliminate. (I am reminded of Ta-Nehisi's joke about Billy Dee Williams being the official black spokesperson .... the same kind of overreaching applies here as well, IMHO.)

What I do reject, however, is that the term "Latina" is a useful term in describing a set of experiences, such that one person could speak to -- and purport to represent -- the Latina experience. I don't think that you have to be Latina to realize that such is somewhat arrogant,

Boy, if she'd said that she was capable of speaking for all Latinas on any issue, that would be reductive and arrogant. Saying that she shares the experiences common to Latinas, on the other hand, and that her judging is usefully informed by that, doesn't seem arrogant at all to me.

Anyway, god forbid a judge should be arrogant. I know humility is usually an important part of Senate confirmation.

Jes wrote: "And this has what to do with your assertion that you, a white man, know better than a Latina that there is no such thing as 'the Latina experience' or the 'white male experience'?"

I just have to say, von, that you wrote a bunch of words in your response to this, and I can't for the life of me see how any of them answer Jes' question.

At this point you're just endlessly repeating variants of the same banal point -- which no member of a minority needs to be told -- that beneath general groupings are subgroupings, and -- something that would be a useful lesson for third-graders everywhere -- referring to, or thinking of, people as only members of the general groupings would be to miss the fact that there are distinct subgroupings, and that everyone is an individual.

That this banality doesn't support your kooky claims that it's "absurd to suggest that Latinas have some common set of experiences" is, at this point, something I feel deeply embarrassed, on your behalf, to read.

"I'm not trying to speak for anyone; I'm not trying to speak to any one person's experience save my own."

But the only experience of your own that you relate here is that: a) you have a friend whose comes from an island in the Carribean, and that he would point out, quite pointedly, that it was a mistake to call him an African American; and b) that you once "called someone whose family is from from Korea, Japanese."

Everything else you're doing is lecturing on how people who are members of groups you're not a member of should be spoken of.

"I do think, however, that terms like Latina and Asian American create a kind of false understanding."

It does passeth all understanding that Asian-Americans and Latino Americans have gotten this all wrong. How do you explain this?

In case the URLs get stripped:
http://www.asianamerican.net/organizations.html

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&safe=off&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla%3Aen-US%3Aofficial&hs=1wL&num=50&q=%22latino+studies%22&aq=f&oq=&aqi=g10

Respectfully, wtf?

Really, just how the heck do you explain this?

"But, at least in my hard-won experience, you tread on truly dangerous ground when you expect that they describe more."

Von, this is sensible for you, a majority-American, to keep in mind, but it's beyond bizarre that you think it's appropriate to lecture minorities on how they shouldn't refer to themselves.

(Specifically, that Sotomayor is "absurd" to say that her experience as a Latino is meaningful.)

For goshsakes, man, stop and think before reeling this projection out on a loop.

That's true, but there's more to life than what bigots think of you, or even experiences of discrimination. This is a woman whose been a corporate litigator/federal judge for decades. Is racial discrimination really the most central part of her experience?

Speaking of reductive....

Being an important facet of her experience doesn't mean the only experience.

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Whatnot


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